Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse Policy


St Paul’s Secondary School Mission Statement

St. Paul’s Secondary School provides an inclusive climate of learning based on the key value of respect within a nurturing and stimulating educational setting.
We are a secondary school of the community for the community. Each student is expected to strive to fulfil his or her potential. Each person is encouraged to develop personally, academically, spiritually, socially and culturally.

“When we aspire, believe and achieve, together we can succeed.”

St Paul’s Secondary School Ethos

St. Paul’s Secondary School is a Catholic voluntary co-educational secondary school under the Trusteeship of the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. St Paul’s is a welcoming and inclusive school. It is the secondary school of the community, for the community. It is the natural extension of the family with brothers and sisters, neighbours and relations learning, sharing and growing together.

The school strives to maintain and promote an atmosphere of Christian care, concern and respect where our students grow into well-adjusted men and women. The school has a strong Christian tradition, in which the Sisters of Mercy have had, and continue to have, an important role.

Inbuilt structures and procedures in the daily life of the school offer the students opportunities to develop personal initiative and responsibility, together with a questioning mind, which will help them assess, with a critical eye, the wide and varied values of the world they live in today. In school they also learn the importance of personal commitment, punctuality, regular attendance, planning for the future and working as a team.

At St Paul’s the holistic development of each student is supported, promoted, encouraged and celebrated. On completion of their education students will be prepared for life, further education, work and the varied and exciting challenges of adult life.
In preparation for life, students at St Paul’s will be taught essential habits, skills and values. Christian values and the key principles of “respect” and “doing one’s best” will remain central to what we are and all we do.

Through its curriculum, teachers and timetable, the school will provide a comprehensive education for its students. Subjects will be offered at all levels and programmes and specific courses of study will be tailored to the students’ needs. A wide range of additional academic opportunities will be afforded to students. Support, advice and guidance on further education and careers will be extensive.

Through its unique atmosphere, the school will help students develop into well-adjusted men and women. Through its pastoral care and guidance, students and their families will be supported through difficult times. The provision of physical education, sports and the promotion of healthy living will remain paramount. Through extra-curricular, subject and programme related activities students will have many opportunities to showcase their talents, perform or experience the arts. The School Charter sets out the conditions and the expectations for all the school partners to achieve St Paul’s Mission Statement through the school ethos.



Introduction to the Policy

The National Drugs Strategy 2001 – 2008 sets out a detailed programme of action to be implemented to combat the very serious problem of drug misuse in our society. The strategy highlights the important contribution that schools can make in the area of education and prevention, and requires them to have substance use policies in place.

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 will address both education concerning alcohol, tobacco and drugs and the procedures for managing incidents relating to these substances.

The reason for 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. St. Pauls has reflected upon how it might provide for the needs of the 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 Development of a Substance Use Policy and how is it developed

St. Paul’s substance use policy sets out, in writing, 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’.

A partnership approach based on the ‘whole school’ model is used for the development of the policy. The policy applies to the entire school community, including teachers, students, parents/guardians, Board of Management, all other school staff and users of the school environment.

The School Position

St. Paul’s is committed to addressing the needs of the whole school in relation to drugs. We believe that Teachers, Parents/ Guardians, Board of Management, students and other relevant personnel need to work together and that co-operation is essential to the acceptance and implementation of the policy.

It has been agreed that a Drug is ‘any substance which changes the way the body functions, mentally, physically or emotionally’.

St. Paul’s recognises that Drugs – both legal and illegal are available in the local community and that the school being part of this community may have drug incidents, which need to be handled in a consistent and sensitive way. St. Pauls also acknowledges that it has an important role to play in drugs education both in terms of prevention and offering support to those who use drugs.

The School Ethos

St. Paul’s believes that the Personal and Social Development of each member of the school community is important. Education flourishes in an environment where good relationships are encouraged, where people feel valued and respected and where there is genuine tolerance, fairness and support for those in difficulty. This philosophy underpins and informs all the work we do and is central to this policy document.

The Use of Drugs in School

St. Paul’s does not tolerate or condone the possession, use or supply of drugs in the school, or while participating in school related activities, educational trips, outings etc. or in non-school time by any member of the school community. The only exception is for legitimate medicinal use and in which case the school has to be informed.

This policy is focused on four key areas:-

1. Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug Education Programmes
2. Managing Drug Related Incidents
3. Training and Staff Development
4. Monitoring, Review and Evaluation.


The School Position

St. Paul’s is committed to providing a comprehensive and timetabled drug education programme for all students, which will be incorporated into the Social, Personal and Health Education Programme currently running in the school.

Our educational aims in relation to Drug Education are:

  • To increase the self-esteem and confidence of the students.
  • To equip students with personal and social skills.
  • To enable students to make informed, healthy and responsible choices.
  • To provide honest and age appropriate information on drugs.
  • To minimise the harm caused by drug use by offering supportive
    interventions/referral. These aims will be met through the following actions:
  • All teachers involved in SPHE will be given the opportunity to avail of training in group facilitation skills and personal development.
  • All school staff will be offered, where practicable and relevant, Drug Information and Drug Awareness training.

Outside Speakers

We believe that trained teachers particularly in S.P.H.E. are in the best position to carry out drug education but sometimes it may be appropriate to use an outside speaker to supplement or reinforce the work done in the class.


Parents/Guardians will be made aware and informed of what is happening in the school with regard to drug education. This will happen on a yearly basis.



The School Approach

We acknowledge that in all situations involving drugs, these needs to be a balance between the needs of the young person, the needs of the school community and the reputation of the school.

Listening, separating fact from myth and support will be our initial approach to the situation. Disciplinary procedures will be followed if school rules are broken and expulsion will be an option when all else has failed.

Drug Incidents

The following are examples of a drug incident:

  • Emergencies when the person may be unconscious
  • Intoxication/unusual behaviour
  • Suspicion/rumour of drug use, possession or dealing
  • Disclosure by another person
  • Possession of a legałillegal drug on the school premises or on a school related activity
  • Selling/supplying legałillegal drugs
  • Person seeking help from member of staff
  • School grounds being used for drug activity
  • Drug paraphernalia found on school property

Assessing a drug incident

In all cases where there is no immediate danger to the students, it will be important to take time to assess the situation before responding.

Recording Procedure

All staff need to be aware of the signs of drug use and alert for changes in behaviour. Adolescence is a period of great change and rumour must not be taken as evidence of drug use.

In situations of confirmed use/possession or supply then all the details will be recorded and acted upon. A written recording procedure will be used. This procedure will ensure that fair process of challenging the student about behaviour of concern is in place.

Managing a drug incident

It is important in all suspected or confirmed drug incidents that a limited number of people are involved in managing the incident. People will be informed on a ‘need to know’ basis.

The Principal, Drug Co-ordinator, Guidance Counsellor and person/s directly involved in the case will be informed and all written documentation will be held confidentially by the school.


In most cases the school will want to involve the parents/carers. This needs to be handled sensitively and wherever possible support offered to them. In the first instance, this support will be offered by the Guidance Counsellor.


It is agreed that the Principal or a designated person will contact the Garda/Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) in the event of a confirmed drug incident and any drugs found on the premises will be dealt with by the JLO.

Counselling/Pastoral Care

The pastoral care system is our first response to a drug incident. For some young people their involvement with drugs may be masking some underlying difficulties and for others it may be a phase of experimentation, which they will pass through safely.

  • In response to all incidents, pastoral support will be offered.
  • If the person has a serious drug problem then referral to an appropriate service will be recommended.
  • Parents and staff involved in the incident will be offered support.

Disciplinary Procedures

Drug incidents are complex and in situations where the school rules regarding drugs are broken, the sanctions and punishments will be implemented depending on the nature and severity of the offence. These will be consistent with school rules regarding other breaches of conduct.

St. Pauls aims to keep students in the school system wherever possible, as early school leaving is associated with increased risk of problem behaviours including substance use.


Teachers cannot offer total confidentiality to a student who discloses drug involvement. We recognise the need for care in this area as the student may be coming to the teacher because they trust him/her and need help. How this situation is handled will have an important bearing on the outcome. Information must remain private and only disclosed on a strict ‘need to know’ basis. The student must be informed about what is happening and why.

The well-being and welfare of the young person and the teacher must be the prime focus. A planned module will be incorporated into the SPHE programme.


We will provide where practicable:


  • St. Paul’s will endeavour to make available training to staff involved in delivering Social, Personal and Health Education Programmes.
  • All staff will be offered drug information and awareness training on an ongoing basis.
  • We will endeavour that training will be made available to the Drug Co-ordinator and key staff in relation to managing drug
    related incidents.
  • We will endeavour that First-aid training be available to all staff.

Parents & Board of Management

  • St. Paul’s will facilitate opportunities to attend information evenings and workshops on issues relating to drugs and these opportunities will be offered as part of the induction course for parents of new students to the school.


  • St. Paul’s will offer all its students drug education programmes within the context of their SPHE classes.



Review of the Policy

The policy will be reviewed annually, or in the light of changing information, by the present group in consultation with the wider school community.


Teachers, Parents, Students, Board of Management and other relevant groups will be involved in the evaluation of this policy and any changes incorporated into the amended policy.

The three main areas of the policy will evaluate:

  1. Drug Education Programmes
  2. Managing Drug Related Incidents
  3. Parent, Staff and Management Training and courses offered to the school community.

Dissemination of policy

Copies of the policy will be disseminated to all the school community. It will also be freely available from the Principal’s Office and will be available for viewing on the school’s website.

Students will be made aware of the policy as part of their drugs education within the context of a Social, Personal and Health Education Programme.