The following is a joint notice from Acting Commissioner of Education William H. Beardsley and Director of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services in the Department of Health and Human Services Sheldon Wheeler. Please share this with school principals and classroom teachers.
Community groups and schools across the state will be conducting activities to raise awareness about alcohol use and abuse on Monday, Dec. 7, Alcohol Awareness Day and throughout Maine’s Alcohol Awareness Week.
Through MRSA Title 20-A, Section 4803, Sub-section 5, the State recognizes the need for schools and community organizations to address alcohol issues. The statute reads, in part: “Alcohol Awareness Day, the first Monday in December, shall be observed by studying, for at least 45 minutes, a constructive approach toward the use of alcohol and the problems and dangers of alcohol abuse upon the individual, the family and society.”
Teachers seeking assistance in planning an Alcohol Awareness Day activity may contact the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHS) at the Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-499-0027, or 287-8900, TTY 711 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. SAMHS has a wide selection of clearinghouse materials such as pamphlets, brochures and posters.
One way to address Alcohol Awareness Day is to use a DVD or video followed by a class discussion. In 2013, SAMHS released “When you say NO to Alcohol, what are you saying YES to?” The video profiles five Maine students who discuss their interests as well as their reasons for choosing not to drink.
The simple message of the video for middle and high school students is that despite assumptions, not all students drink. The “When You Say No” video and a discussion guide are available for download along with other Alcohol Awareness Day resources at www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/irc/alcoholawareness.htm.
Beyond observing Alcohol Awareness Day, it is important that Maine students be provided with education and awareness about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. This should be part of school districts’ PreK through high school health education curriculum and aligned to the Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction, Health Education Standards.
SAMHS also offers an online guide to assist Maine schools in creating, updating, and enforcing a substance use policy. The 2014 revised guide, “Substance Use Policy: A Comprehensive Guide for School Policy Development,” is available on the Maine SAMHS website. The guide provides recommendations and practical suggestions for a complete policy, based on the latest available research and best practices.