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Safe & Supportive Schools


Substance Use, Trauma, and Violence Prevention

Safe & Supportive Learning Environments can prevent substance use, trauma and violence by working collaboratively with school staff, students and parents, and by coordinating efforts with related federal, state and community efforts and resources. Information about select Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) programs and supports can be accessed below, as can several related outside resources.

Substance Use Prevention and Intervention

Guidance on School Policies Regarding Substance Use Prevention

An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention was signed into law on March 14, 2016, as Chapter 52 of the Acts of 2016. The following sections relate to public schools:

Mass. General Laws chapter 71, section 96 (as amended by St. 2016, c. 52, s. 15):

Section 96. Each public school shall have a policy regarding substance use prevention and the education of its students about the dangers of substance abuse. The school shall notify the parents or guardians of all students attending the school of the policy and shall post the policy on the school's website. The policy, and any standards and rules enforcing the policy, shall be prescribed by the school committee in conjunction with the superintendent or the board of trustees of a charter school.

The department of elementary and secondary education, in consultation with the department of public health, shall provide guidance and recommendations to assist schools with developing and implementing effective substance use prevention and abuse education policies and shall make such guidance and recommendations publicly available on the department's website. Guidance and recommendations may include educating parents or guardians on recognizing warning signs of substance abuse and providing available resources. Guidance and recommendations shall be reviewed and regularly updated to reflect applicable research and best practices.

Each school district and charter school shall file its substance use prevention and abuse education policies with the department of elementary and secondary education in a manner and form prescribed by the department.

The following information and resources may be useful for schools/districts when creating and updating substance use prevention policies and educating students about the dangers of substance use and abuse.

Download Word Document
Guidance on School Policies Regarding Substance Use Prevention

New Requirement for Districts to Implement a Substance Use-Related Screening Tool

The Department's guidance memo explains a new state law requiring all public school districts to verbally screen students at two grade levels for substance use disorders. This initiative can assist school staff with prevention efforts and with identifying early risk of substance use and misuse among middle and high school students.

Mass. General Laws chapter 71, section 97 (as amended by St. 2016, c.52, s.15) provides that, subject to appropriation, each city, town, regional school district, charter school and vocational school is required to use a verbal screening tool to screen students for substance use disorders. Funds have been appropriated to the Department of Public Health (DPH) to support school districts in implementing the law, including related training. Beginning in the current school year, districts are expected to:

  1. Conduct screenings on an annual basis at two different grade levels (grades 7 and 9 are recommended),
  2. Notify the parents or guardians of the students who will be screened before the screening takes place, and
  3. Permit a student or the student's parent or guardian to opt out of the screening at any time by giving written notification.

The guidance memo includes more details. Other online resources include Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral for Treatment in Schools (SBIRT), which has information about training in the CRAFFT-II verbal substance use screening tool prescribed by DPH. School districts may choose to use an approach other than the CRAFFT-II by submitting to DESE an alternative substance use prevention program form Download Word Document signed by the superintendent or charter school leader and including a description of the chosen alternative program. For more information, please contact atod@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-6309.

Good Behavior Game and Life Skills Training

To help prevent the harms of substance misuse from disrupting adolescents' lives and promote academic success, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is starting early. All 3-9th grade Curriculum Administrators, teachers, counselors, and nurses are invited to participate in free one-day certification training in evidence-based prevention. The LifeSkills Training© program also has positive outcomes in social and emotional learning and violence prevention. The free training, curriculum, and student supplies are on-going offered regularly across the Commonwealth. Teams are encouraged to register early. Registration is available online.

Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP)

MTCP is a statewide public health program focused on comprehensive approaches to reduce tobacco and nicotine use. Our mission is to reduce the health and economic burden of tobacco use by preventing young people from starting to use tobacco and nicotine products, helping current tobacco and nicotine users to quit, protecting children and adults from secondhand smoke, and identifying and eliminating tobacco-related disparities.

Project Here Middle School Initiative

The Attorney General's Office and the GE Foundation have announced the launch of Project Here, an initiative that will make educational resources available to public middle schools at no cost with the goals of raising awareness about the risks and consequences of substance use, de-stigmatizing the disease of addiction, and promoting healthy decision-making. Information about the program and registration can be found at Project Here website.

Promote Prevent Commission

In August 2016, Governor Baker signed the Special Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention into law. Referred to as the Promote Prevent Commission, it focused on aspects of the behavioral health continuum of care (i.e. promotion and prevention) that have received limited attention by other taskforces, legislation, and budgetary action. The Commission was comprised of an interdisciplinary group of leaders in behavioral health, prevention, public health, addiction, mental health, criminal justice, health policy, epidemiology, and environmental health. The Commission's Report to the Legislature outlined a plan to promote mental, emotional, and behavioral health and to prevent issues like addition, mental illness, and violence.

Recovery High School Programs

Recovery High School programs, as set forth in M.G.L. c. 71, § 91, provide a structured plan of recovery for students diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency and offer the student a comprehensive four-year high school education. Recovery High School programs are not autonomous schools or school districts; they are public programs operated by a school district or an education collaborative. Recovery High School programs are educational options for students needing support for recovery from addiction, combined with a comprehensive high school education. To support students with disabilities who are attending Recovery High School programs, there is an administrative advisory entitled: Recovery High Schools and Students Eligible for Special Education.

Download Word Document
Recovery High School Program Quality Program Guidelines serve as guidance on program quality expectations for the implementation of Massachusetts Recovery High School programs.

Prevention Education Resources

Preventing Underage Drinking — Social Host Liability Law Q & A: A social host is anyone (adult or minor) who is in control of the premises and who furnishes alcohol or allows it to be consumed on those premises. The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. Those who do may be prosecuted criminally. The penalty is a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. (M.G.L. c. 138, s. 34)

Marijuana Prevention

Get the facts you need to make informed choices. Learn what you can and can't do, and how marijuana can affect your body, mind, and health. Information for parents and caregivers as well as prevention resources.

Department of Public Health (DPH) — Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS)

The BSAS oversees the substance abuse and gambling prevention and treatment services in the Commonwealth. Responsibilities include: licensing programs and counselors; funding and monitoring prevention and treatment services; providing access to treatment for the indigent and uninsured; developing and implementing policies and programs; and tracking substance abuse trends in the state.

Additional Resources

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Letter to share with families from DPH/DESE on student vaping, marijuana, and opioid risks and resources
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Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse
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Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development
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National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices
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What Schools Can Do: Creative Ways Franklin County and North Quabbin Schools are Implementing DESE Guidance on Substance Use Prevention

Trauma and Violence Prevention

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) G.L. c. 71, as amended by sections 60 and 61 of Chapter 256 of the Acts of 2010, requires public schools to include in health education the topic of safe and healthy relationships with a focus on preventing sexual and domestic violence. Additionally, subject to appropriation, schools are required to implement specific policies and discipline codes that address teen dating violence in public schools. The guidelines contain recommendations for developing such policies and discipline codes.

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Bullying Prevention and Intervention and Social and Emotional Learning
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Massachusetts Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)
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Behavioral Health and Public Schools (BHPS) Framework and Assessment Tool
Download Word Document
BHPS Task Force Final Report
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Safe and Supportive Schools Commission
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Safe and Supportive Schools Grants
Download Word Document
Teen Dating Violence Prevention Guidelines

Trauma Sensitive Schools

Trauma Sensitive Schools provide an environment that addresses the educational and psycho-social needs of students who have experienced trauma. Trauma may be caused by circumstances including, but not limited to, family violence, community violence, war, and homelessness. The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) provides general information about trauma, resources and external links for helping traumatized children learn.

Safe Schools Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Students

The Safe Schools Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students is a joint initiative between the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. Founded in 1993 in response to concerns about LGBTQ youth suicides and other risk factors, the program offers a range of services designed to help schools implement laws, policies and best practices that support LGBTQ students.

The Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students website has information about trainings, technical assistance, the Massachusetts Gender and Sexuality Alliance Leadership Council, and state laws and policies, including: Principles for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students, Guidance on Supporting Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students and Guidance on Parental Notification for Bullying Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.

View the website for more information and to request training or technical assistance from the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students.

Other Resources

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School Resources related to Suicide Prevention

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US Department of Education - National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments

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National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
NCMEC's mission is to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The numerous resources available include a page for Parents/Guardians as well as NetSmartz,® an interactive, educational safety resource for children aged 5 to 17, parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet

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Psychological First Aid for Schools


Last Updated: July 9, 2019
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