MAP-IT in Action — In the Community: A Local School Board Addresses Underage Drinking
Mrs. King, the head of the school board, has been answering phone calls nonstop for the past 2 days. Parents of high school students have been calling to ask what the school board is going to do about a number of underage drinking incidents at school events. The incidents were recently written up in the local paper. Mrs. King calls the other school board members, and they all agree to hold an emergency meeting.
Before the meeting, Mrs. King contacts school board members in surrounding towns to find out how they have addressed underage drinking in their schools.
After a long, sometimes heated discussion, the school board agrees to add a unit on alcohol abuse to the school’s curriculum. They decide that Mrs. King and Mr. Brown, another school board member, will lead the process of selecting, implementing, and evaluating a new unit on alcohol use.
Mrs. King and Mr. Brown decide that first they need to gather local, county, and State data to better understand the scope of the problem. They look at the Healthy People 2020 Web site and find the Substance Abuse topic area objective SA-13.1 Reduce the proportion of adolescents reporting use of alcohol or any illicit drugs during the past 30 days. The national measure for that objective comes from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). The national data stated that 18.3 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 reported use of alcohol or illicit drug in the past 30 days in 2008. The national goal is to reduce that number to 16.5 percent. Mrs. King and Mr. Brown are able to review the NHSDA data for their State and find that the State’s baseline is 15 percent.. It is clear to them that underage drinking is a public health priority.
Mrs. King and Mr. Brown also decide that the school board should hold meetings with students, parents, police, and local business owners to determine the causes of underage alcohol use, especially binge drinking. From these meetings, they find that peer pressure, easy access to alcohol, and perceived lack of consequences are reported by each group. After gathering this information, the school board requests curricula for review that address the causes of underage alcohol use. The school board makes a point to only request curricula that are evidence and science based.
Mrs. King and Mr. Brown present the school board with 3 curricula that address the causes of alcohol abuse in their community. The school board discusses the pros and cons of each and selects one that best meets their learning objectives as well as time and budget requirements. They pick 2 teachers who are well liked by the students and certified in health education to teach the course. Working with the teachers and administrators, the school board finds time in the school schedule for the course. Mrs. King and Mr. Brown work with another school board member with evaluation experience to create an evaluation plan. They decide that a pre- and post-test should be given to students. The evaluations will be collected and entered by a teacher’s aide familiar with data entry software. The same school board member who created the evaluation plan will analyze the data.
The school board sends the 2 teachers to training on the new curriculum, and they start teaching the course when the new semester begins. A volunteer student advisory group is formed to give the teachers additional feedback on the curriculum. The group meets periodically during the semester to discuss ways to make the course more relevant to their peers. The teachers give out a pre-test on the first day of class and a post-test on the last day of the curriculum.
Mrs. King and Mr. Brown collect attendance records for the course, review the student evaluation data, and monitor local police reports for alcohol-related incidents. The first group of students to complete the course reports binge drinking less often on their post-test.
They also collect informal data, such as teachers’ perceptions of students’ attitudes toward alcohol use and students’ requests for more alcohol-free school-sponsored events.
Mrs. King and Mr. Brown contact the director of the State Bureau of Substance Abuse to inform her of the community’s efforts. The State health official agrees to stay in touch and to alert them to possible funding opportunities in the future. They also brainstorm other potential funding sources, such as fundraising and partnering with local businesses.
The entire school board knows that it will be a challenge to keep momentum for this program going, especially if the issue is not in the news and budgets are cut. They hope that because students, parents, and other community members were involved in the assessment process, they will remain committed to offering alcohol abuse prevention education at the high school.