According to the CDC, Florida experienced a 22.7 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2014 and 2015, which was the seventh-highest jump nationally. No numbers are yet available for 2016, but make no mistake: Drugs remain a huge problem in our state, especially when it comes to teenage use. For all the good news about declining drug and alcohol use by teens, there is still much work to do in 2017 and beyond.
That said, a new year should always be cause for optimism—a fresh start with a fresh calendar. And 2017 will provide plenty of opportunities for teachers to band together with parents, students and administrators to support student success. Here are some ways to do so:
Promote Positive Messages
The stark warnings and statistics thrown at students serve a purpose: Poor choices can lead to serious consequences. However, overdoing the gloom and doom can numb teens to the anti-drug and anti-alcohol messages or, even worse, create an impression that no matter what kids choose, they are bound to fail. Promoting positive messages can foster student success and keep teens safe. Amid the discouraging statistics, for example, is this one truth: A majority of Florida kids are making smart choices—not everyone is drinking or using. The more students hear empowering messages such as this, the more likely they will succeed.
Lock Your Meds
Informed Families offers two campaigns through the remainder of school year, the first of which is Lock Your Meds. Prescription drug abuse has become a serious problem with teenagers—instead of scoring drugs, all kids need to do is raid their parents’ medicine cabinets to find powerful pills. Student success is affected not only because of the harmful effects of the drugs, but also because pills can be easily brought to school and ingested. Lock Your Meds highlights the dangers of prescription drugs and emphasizes the importance of parents securing any pills that they have been prescribed.
Safe Homes Smart Parties
Spring will arrive before you know it, and that means prom and graduation season—a memorable, wonderful time for teenagers, but also a time in which underage drinking spikes. Some parents think if they offer to host parties that allow alcohol, the drinking can be controlled or supervised. Besides being illegal, this is also putting teens at risk. Our Safe Homes Smart Parties campaign educates students on making safe choices before, during and after spring dances, and reinforces the need for parents to forbid drinking of any kind in their homes when their kids’ friends are guests.
Work with Parents
Teachers and parents are allies in supporting student success. Therefore, working with parents on anti-drug campaigns drives you closer toward a common goal. Parent peer groups have become popular as a way for parents to band together to help their kids stay safe. These groups don’t operate in a vacuum—they thrive when teachers can offer input and provide support. Many teachers are parents, too, and have a stake in this fight.
Work with Students
After parents, teachers may be the most influential role models that students have in their lives. Your opinion matters, so if students are looking to you for help battling drugs at your school, embrace the opportunity—be a resource for them to promote success. Our Red Ribbon Week is a perfect example of teachers, students and parents working together to show support for a drug-free America. The next Red Ribbon Week won’t be until October 2017, but working with students to spread the word can be a worthwhile endeavor for the entire year - and it’s never too early to start planning for Red Ribbon Week.
What opportunities to support student success are you looking forward to in 2017?