This Policy has been developed through a process of consultation with representatives from the Board, School Management, parents, staff and pupils of St Mary’s School.
South Africa has been targeted by international drug syndicates as a new haven for both drug peddling and drug trafficking. While the whole world is in the grip of a vicious drug onslaught, South Africa, for historical reasons, is particularly at risk and this means specifically our children. There needs to be an awareness of this problem as no-one in this country is immune to the consequences of drugs and drug abuse.
Key issues in this policy revolve around prevention, confidentiality and consequences. The policy has the objective of incorporating St Mary’s Christian values into the principles and procedures of the document and aims to help the pupils strive for excellence in all spheres. St Mary’s hopes to prepare the pupils for success and to help protect and safeguard them. This policy is proactive in encouraging healthy choices for adolescents and ensuring that the School is a drug-free zone.
2. Substance Abuse
The word substance refers to any substance which has the potential of being abused. Ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and marijuana are examples of illegal drugs but this list is not exhaustive. Alcohol and tobacco products are also “substances”.
Alcohol is considered a frequent entry point for further substance abuse. It is illegal for tobacco products to be sold to anyone under the age of sixteen years and it is illegal for alcohol to be sold or served to anyone under the age of eighteen.
3. St Mary’s Principles taken from the Code of Conduct
Taking a cue from the Ministry of Education Guidelines issued under the South African Schools’ Act of 1996, one can state that pupils have the duty/responsibility to learn and to develop their full potential, to participate in the learning process and to apply themselves with diligence, sincere effort and commitment.
In the context of St Mary’s School, substances including tobacco products and alcohol may not be used by any St Mary’s girl, regardless of age.
The Code of Conduct of the St Mary’s School community adheres to the Mission Statement of the School. The policy regarding substance abuse applies within the context of St Mary’s, that is: St Mary’s premises, tours, camps, any occasion where pupils represent St Mary’s. The approach to difficulties such as those of alcohol and substance abuse must be measured against the standard of the Code of Conduct at St Mary’s. In addition the following principles have specific relevance to the requirements of pastoral care, education and discipline, in respect of the problems of abuse and dependency.
3.1 Every child is unique and special
The ethos of St Mary’s is that each pupil and setting shall be treated with sensitivity. While every pupil most certainly is unique and special, and each case regarded on its merits, the St Mary’s community has to act for the good of the whole community and all action will be taken with this view in mind.
The concept of development of the whole person within the context of the community, is inherent in the educational ethos of St Mary’s and is crucial in preventing the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Educational programmes which help to raise awareness of the problems of abuse and dependency involve staff, parents and pupils on an ongoing basis. In turn, this awareness builds an informed, alert and caring community.
3.3 Compassion and specialised support
Education at St Mary’s School is as much concerned with the pastoral needs of its pupils, as it is with their academic progress. Pupils need to be given help and support to deal effectively with their perceived difficulties, no matter what these might be. Pupils with difficulties of abuse and dependency may require specialised help, over and above that offered to the general body of pupils in terms of education.
The School, in association with and by referral to accredited and appropriate professionals and organizations, will assist pupils with abuse and dependency problems in establishing a programme of self-help and rehabilitation. All assistance shall be provided in a manner which is consistent with accepted professional ethics and codes of conduct, which honours the dignity and rights of the pupil, recognises parental responsibility and serves the best interests of the School as a whole. The costs of such professionals and counselling will be borne by parents.
3.4 Disciplinary Action must be just and fair
Disciplinary measures can be consistent with holistic education only if they are administered with justice and fairness. This applies as much to the procedures for investigation as they do for the implementation of punishment. The St Mary’s School community will adhere strictly to the requirements of the South African Constitution, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the Gauteng Schools’ Act in the implementation of all disciplinary procedures regarding substance abuse and dependence.
The issue of confidentiality in building trust between different parties is essential in order for support to be effective. The confidentiality of the pupil and the family concerned will be considered throughout any procedures contemplated in this policy so long as it serves the best interests of the School as a whole. The issue of confidentiality will be affected by how flagrant the situation of substance abuse is.
The aim of the educational programme is to encourage girls to take care of themselves in whatever situations they may find themselves and to be able to make informed and courageous choices.
In keeping with the Code of Conduct and the ethos of the School, and the principle of being pro-active in dealing with life situations, the School will organize a range of educational events and programmes dealing with the difficulties of substance abuse and dependency. Pupils and parents should be aware of what drugs are available, their effects and should appreciate the consequences of any substance abuse. Parental involvement, which enhances the success of these programmes, is encouraged by the School.
It is important to understand the consequences of substance abuse within the family unit and that substance abuse does not affect only the pupil herself. Should parents need to be involved in a programme of supporting their daughter, the School will assist by referring the family to appropriate experts.
5. Procedures for dealing with problems of Drug Abuse and Dependency
The following procedures will serve as primary guidelines for dealing with difficulties of drug abuse and dependency at St Mary’s School.
5.1 Procedure for reporting
Any incident regarding substance abuse should be reported to the Headmistress immediately. Disciplinary action will be at the discretion of the Headmistress.
5.2 Procedures for Counselling and Rehabilitation
There are different possibilities which affect the way in which the issue of disciplinary action will be addressed:
If a St Mary’s pupil comes forward herself - the disciplinary procedure does not apply as confidentiality will be maintained and the matter will not be made public. The matter remains between the pupil and the adult confidante. Confidentiality will be broken if the pupil threatens to harm herself or another person. Confidentiality may also be breached if no improvement is noted after a reasonable period of rehabilitation and disciplinary action may then be taken.
If there is reason to believe that a pupil is abusing substances, the matter may be referred to the Headmistress or any member of staff at the School. The adult concerned will take the steps necessary to investigate and verify the seriousness of the problem. Appropriate counselling and rehabilitative procedures will be followed if necessary. An agreement between the pupil and the counsellor concerned would be inherent in this situation. The confidentiality of the situation will be determined by the pupil’s level of co-operation and disciplinary action will be implemented if there is no improvement after a reasonable period of rehabilitation. An agreement between the pupil and counsellor will be inherent in both situations.
Disciplinary action will be determined according to the norms and procedures of discipline applicable at the School and may involve expulsion, suspension, detention or School service. Careful assessment will take place with regard to every case, taking into account that every pupil and situation is unique.
5.3.1 Testing for Substance Abuse
If there is evidence of suspected substance abuse, the Headmistress may request that the pupil be tested for substances by a professional or appropriate agency. No testing will be conducted without the knowledge and consent of the parent/legal guardian. Parents will be liable for the cost of testing.
It further remains the prerogative of the School to proceed with random testing should the School deem this necessary. It is important to note that a full professional assessment of the pupil’s symptoms would be conducted before considering testing for a particular pupil. The confidentiality of this situation will depend on the pupil’s level of co-operation.
5.3.2 Dealing in Substance Abuse
Where a pupil brings substances to school, or distributes or sells them at school that pupil is liable for immediate suspension and expulsion. The School will contact the parents and may refer the matter to the police for further action. The School will assist the police in their investigation at the School and will also initiate disciplinary action of its own. Pupils who are required to take medication while at school must notify the School.
6. Annual Report to the Governing Body
An annual report is to be provided by the School Management and the School Counsellor on the implementation of this policy and the overall effectiveness of the School community in coping with the difficulties of drug abuse and dependency.
Agreement to abide by the spirit and terms of this policy as part of the School’s Code of Conduct, is a fundamental condition for acceptance into the School, for continued attendance, and for participation in all the School’s programmes and activities.
Reviewed October 2009