Substance Abuse Policy

HCS / Information / Policies / Substance Abuse Policy

Ratified by the board of management, October 2014



The central objective of our school’s substance use policy is the welfare, care and protection of every young person in line with the Education Act 1998 and the Education (welfare) Act, 2000. The policy addresses both education concerning alcohol, tobacco and drugs and the procedures for managing incidents relating to these substances.



Our substance use policy sets out the framework within which the whole school community manages issues relating to substance use. It reflects the unique ethos of the school and aims to develop a shared understanding of the term ‘drugs’.

The policy applies to the entire school community, including teachers, students, parents /guardians and uses of the school building. The policy applies to all concerned during school time (including breaks) and also applies to all school related activities.


Relationship to the school’s mission/vision/aims

The characteristic spirit of the school is one of mutual respect. We aim to provide a safe/caring and secure environment for learning. The school makes all reasonable efforts to support those who are experiencing difficulties – but must at all times, be conscious of the needs of the student body at large.

HCS strives to be a welcoming place for all its students. We endeavour to be fair and just and to have a positive approach in our structures and behaviour, management strategies and to be consultative in decision-making. This ‘Substance Use’ policy is in line with our overall approach and reflects the school ethos.


Rationale – Why a policy on Substance Use?

The world in which we live presents young people with many challenges that affect their health and well-being. Exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs is part of this reality. Schools need to reflect upon how they might provide for the needs of their student cohort and respond appropriately to what are sometimes sensitive and emotive issues.
The Education Act (1998) provides that schools should promote the social and personal development of students and provide health education for them.
The National Drugs Strategy -‘Building on Experience’- is now Government policy and it requires schools to have a substance use policy in place.
The report from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs entitled `Drug use prevention’ (November 2001) underlines the importance, of schools developing substance use policies.



1. We are clearly setting out our policy on Substance Use
2. The central objective of the school’s substance use policy is the welfare, care and protection of every young person in line with the Education Act, 1998 and the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000. The policy addresses both education concerning alcohol, tobacco and drugs and the procedures for managing incidents relating to these substances.

3. We are acknowledging the very serious problem of drug misuse in our society. We believe that schools can make an important contribution in the area of education and prevention.


Policy Content

The policy content is divided into three sections:

i. Education concerning substance use
ii. Management of alcohol, tobacco and drug related incidents
iii. Provision for training and staff development


I. Education concerning substance use

Education about alcohol, tobacco and drugs is most effective if provided in the broader context of a Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme, which is developmental and delivered in the context of a supportive whole school environment.

  • The SPHE programme is compulsory for all 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students. It is part of the core curriculum and is delivered on the basis of one class period per week. It contains a module, in each of the 3 years, on substance use.
  • The SPHE programme has a key role in developing an informed and sensible attitude to substances.
  • In challenging students to avoid the use of illegal substances, this school will strive to provide a drug free environment.
  • The SPHE programme also makes use of peer education approaches. “Drug talk” from a teacher may be viewed with suspicion by students; from specially trained peers or older students it can have a greater impact and credibility.
  • The use of an outside visitor/ speaker to enhance the work done in class will always be considered in the context of the full SPHE programme and will be undertaken in the presence of a/the teacher. Talks at Assembly will also be undertaken.


II. Management of alcohol, tobacco and drug related incidents

The school will respond to incidents involving alcohol, tobacco and drug use in a planned and considered way. In certain cases it may be necessary to seek legal advice. Due care will be exercised in deciding on the balance between a pastoral and a disciplinary response. An appropriate pastoral response to an incident involving alcohol, tobacco and drug use may include referral to a support agency. Where a member of staff requires support, school may consider facilitating links with support agencies provided by the state and teachers unions.

• The school’s Charter of Behaviour is outlined in the students journal and is very clear on the issue of substance abuse/use:

“Possession, use or supply of drugs, alcohol or any illegal substances is completely prohibited. Any transgression of this regulation will warrant removal from class and the imposition of further sanctions. A final decision on the severity of the sanction rests with the Board of Management”.

• The school’s Charter of Behaviour also outlined in the students school journal concerning smoking:

“In accordance with Department of Health regulations, smoking is strictly prohibited, inside or outside the school, in the school grounds, or going to or from school in school uniform. To smoke or be in the company of smokers within the school complex is considered a serious offence and warrants immediate suspension for one day. Sanctions will be applied for any further smoking incidents”.


Our understanding of a drug related incident would include:

  • Use or suspected use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco on the school premises or during a school-related activity
  • Intoxication/unusual behaviour
  • Finding these substances and/or associated paraphernalia
  • Possession and/or supply on the school premises or during a school related activity.

The reporting procedure for such incidents is for the teacher /student /parent /other to report the matter to a teacher /year head /deputy principal /principal. While a verbal report will be investigated, a written report will be required.

  • Parents will be notified in relation to incidents involving their own child.
  • The involvement of parents in incidents relating to another child will be a matter for the discretion of the principal.
  • The Board of Management has ratified this policy. It will be involved in its ongoing evaluation and review. All suspensions/expulsions must be ratified by the board of management (the principal is authorized by the board to suspend).
  • Hartstown C.S. is an educational establishment and only has very limited facilities for dealing with incidents requiring medical intervention – basic first aid. Where we believe that a medical intervention is required, we will notify the parents of the student involved and/or may decide to call for an ambulance.
  • The drug related incidents outlined above are of a serious nature. It is our policy to inform the Gardaí of these cases. We will also involve the Gardaí in a proactive approach (through, for example, the pastoral care programme).
  • We encourage parents to avail of any support agencies available at local level –where students involved in substance misuse might be referred.
  • Where a substance related issue leads to an enquiry from the media, only the Principal (or Deputy Principals in the absence of the Principal) should respond. No other person is authorised to speak on behalf of the school.
  • There are various mechanisms in place which facilitate the following up of incidents which take place – Guidance Counsellors, Chaplain, Year Heads.
  • The Board of Management reserves the right to request a medical report verifying that the student is drug free over a determined period of time, before allowing a student to return to school.


III. Provision for training and staff development

An effective policy needs to be supported by an ongoing commitment from the Board of Management and School Trustees to training and staff development. At present, schools are assisted in this – at post-primary level – by the SPHE Support Service (Post-Primary). Health Boards also provide a wide range of supports for schools including Health Education and Health Promotion, Smoking

Cessation Support and Adolescent Counselling Services.

  • There is a shared understanding among the staff of the contribution that an SPHE programme can make to the prevention of substance misuse.
  • All staff members are aware of the contribution they can make to the prevention of substance misuse within their own subject area (e.g. by developing a supportive class environment).
  • All staff members are sufficiently aware of and sensitive to the signs and symptoms of substance misuse. It must be emphasised here that we are educators and are not medically qualified. In the main, the most that can realistically be expected is that we will operate at a basic “common sense” level in relation to substance use.
  • It would be our intention to continue our practice of regularly updating staff on these issues. Staff training can come in several forms – inservice courses, outside speakers, workshops etc.
  • New staff will be briefed on all school policies – including the substance policy – as part of their induction programme.
  • Parent education on SPHE and issues relating to substance misuse will be promoted in the school community.