ISSUE: Research continues to indicate that a prime reason for the limited effectiveness of many school-based prevention programs is insufficient parental support and community involvement. To remedy this situation, many schools are now trying to enlist the aid of parents and community members in changing cultural norms and conditions that support alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use.
OVERVIEW: Substance abuse by students is a serious problem confronting school districts across the country, regardless of cultural, ethnic, or socioeconomic considerations. The United States ranks first among all industrialized nations in the number of young people using illicit drugs (Education Commission of the States, 1988). Young people who partake in ATOD use run the risk of incurring serious damage to their minds and bodies as well as to their futures. Research studies have repeatedly linked ATOD use to a decline in academic performance, to truancy and dropping out, and to misconduct and delinquency (Gaustad, 1993). Substance abuse also has a strong correlation to crime and violence
Such problems are not limited to urban and suburban areas. ATOD use by youth in rural communities has become as great a problem as in the cities (Edwards, 1994a). Rates of violence and substance abuse in rural America are catching up to rates reported in urban areas, and in some instances have surpassed them (Blaser, 1994). Rural areas also may have a greater tolerance for the use of violence (Donnermeyer, 1994; Nisbett, 1993).
Kathy Marshall, an associate director of the Midwest Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, comments on the difficulty of addressing alcohol abuse in rural areas where it has been tolerated in the past. [240k audio file] Excerpted from the audio series Voices: The Midwest Audio Network for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, volume #1 (Midwest Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, 1991). A text version is available.
Multiple forces in the lives of youth can put them at risk for ATOD use. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention has identified five groups of risk factors for ATOD use: individual-based, family-based, school-based, peer group-based, and community-based (Gardner, Green, & Marcus, 1994).
Stefon Humphrey, alcohol and other drug coordinator for the Brooklyn School District in Lovejoy, Illinois, talks about how young children often are negatively influenced by the actions and attitudes of family members who indulge in ATOD use. [255k audio file] Excerpted from the audio series Voices: The Midwest Audio Network for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, volume #1 (Midwest Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, 1991). A text version is available.
To encourage the involvement of parents and the community, Summerfield (1991) suggests the development of school-community teams. Such teams can provide support for the school's prevention program through collaboration with various community and social service organizations. (For further information on collaboration between schools and community services, refer to the critical issue "Linking At-Risk Students and Schools to Integrated Services.")
Debora Rogers, one of the hosts of Voices audio magazine, describes the three aspects of an effective school-based ATOD prevention program. [165k audio file] Excerpted from the audio series Voices: The Midwest Audio Network for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, volume #1 (Midwest Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, 1991). A text version is available.
School-community teams also can encourage the development of community-based support programs--such as youth clubs, clinics, church organizations, and community service projects--that foster positive youth development.
Involving the community in prevention efforts requires a great deal of planning. Melaville, Blank, and Asayesh (1993) have identified a five-stage process for developing a profamily community system: getting together, building trust and ownership, developing a strategic plan, taking action, and going to scale.
Many researchers (Wittman, 1986, 1990; MacDonald & Whitehead, 1983; Mosher & Coleman, 1989; Room, 1980, 1984) have suggested an environmental approach to prevention planning that encourages self-directed uses of the community's own resources to prevent substance abuse. Examples of this approach include actions taken by indigenous groups to force removal of cigarette and alcohol advertisement from billboards in their communities, marches and pressure rallies conducted by neighborhood groups in front of crack houses, and the "Fighting Back" program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and operating in 14 communities throughout the United States (Spickard, Dixon, and Sarver, 1994).
McKnight and Kretzmann (1990) have developed a Neighborhood Assets Map and a Neighborhood Needs Map to help communities depict the resources and deficiencies in their neighborhoods. Such maps can be used to promote neighborhood-based projects that use local assets to solve local problems.
The main intent of school-community teams is to involve all levels of the community in prevention efforts. Embodying this intent is the concept of Communities That Care (Hawkins, Catalano, & Associates, 1992), which proposes that whole communities can become healthier, more productive places for youth and adults alike if people at every level get involved in prevention efforts and stay involved long enough to make a difference. The emphasis is on comprehensiveness: the development of consistent policies across families, schools, and communities that incorporate social development strategy to deter ATOD use.
GOALS: Successful involvement of parents and community members in school-based prevention should help all stakeholders--students, teachers and administrators, school-community teams, parents and community members, and community organizations and agencies--to realize the following goals:
Maxine Womble, director of the Midwest Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, discusses the importance of using many different communitywide prevention programs to help children deal with ATOD issues. [210k audio file] Excerpted from the video series Schools That Work: The Research Advantage, videoconference #6, Preparing Students for Drug-Free Lifestyles (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1992). A text version is available.
ACTION OPTIONS: The following action options encourage the involvement of all levels of the community.
Teachers and Administrators:
William M. Harvey, executive director of the Narcotics Service Council in St. Louis, Missouri, talks about bringing the community into the design process of prevention programs. [285k audio file] Excerpted from the video series Schools That Work: The Research Advantage, videoconference #6, Preparing Students for Drug-Free Lifestyles (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1992). A text version is available.
Parents and Community Members:
Community Organizations and Agencies:
IMPLEMENTATION PITFALLS: School-community teams attempting to enlist the cooperation of community forces may encounter staggering and unexpected obstacles. Parents and community members may be reluctant to get involved in prevention efforts. Agencies and local community organizations may seek to protect their own interests, and interagency rivalry may cause resistance to cooperation. In such cases, emphasis must be placed on the importance of collaboration in achieving goals.
Because most middle-school and high-school students attend school outside their neighborhood, it may be difficult to enlist the cooperative involvement of residents near a school that their children do not attend. Similarly, busing of students can affect attendance in after-school prevention programs. Will students and parents participate if they have to provide their own transportation and the programs are held after hours? To encourage participation, school-community teams must hold meetings at times and places that are convenient for community attendance.
Leaders of the mobilization process may be insensitive to distinct racial, ethnic, or class interests in the community. They may insufficiently recognize or understand local African-American, Latino, or Asian community concerns. This problem can be avoided if community participants are actively involved at all levels of the process.
A great deal of patience and persistence may be required to mobilize the community. The plan that ultimately evolves must be supported by key political and economic forces in the local and broader community. It also must meet, at least partially, the survival and developmental needs of existing and evolving agency programs and community groups.
Some educators and parents may view collaborative prevention efforts as an encroachment on their turf. School staff often see working with parents and community members as an addition to their already long list of responsibilities. The school culture may marginalize the role of parents and community members and create an environment that says "stay away." Inconvenient hours, inaccessible personnel, communiques in a foreign language, educational jargon, and unwelcoming visiting procedures all can be barriers to parent and community involvement.
In many areas of the country, the community itself is a prime contributor to the promotion of ATOD use. On their way to school, children may pass through neighborhoods cluttered with of liquor stores, billboards advertising tobacco and alcohol products, overt street drug dealing, and varied expressions of drug-related violence. The steady social and economic decline of many urban areas dramatically increases the challenge of implementing community strategies. The magnitude of fear provoked by drugs and crime should not be underestimated. Yet if the problems are to be solved, fear must be reduced and hope generated to such a degree that residents become actively engaged in working toward solutions and reinvesting in their community.
DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: Some people view alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by youth as inevitable; others don't view it as a problem in their community.
In troubled neighborhoods that have problems due to an influx of drugs, religious institutions often act as a stabilizing influence. Where signs of order and stability appear to have broken down--family units destroyed, community pride dissolved, housing stock devalued--residents often turn to the religious community for leadership, support, and strength. Religious institutions also are helpful in motivating and organizing community members to take action in community prevention efforts. School-community teams will benefit from working effectively with African-American churches.
Walbridge Caring Communities in St. Louis is a nationally recognized program that expands on the Communities That Care concept.
Mt. Carmel Schools, Wabash County, Illinois
Waialua Elementary School, Hawaii
Community Responses to Drug Abuse (CRDA) Program is a national demonstration project to mobilize neighborhoods in the war against drugs.
Fighting Back is a comprehensive substance-abuse program used in 14 American communities.
New Beginnings Center for Children and Families in San Diego, California, is an example of a pro-family system.
Las Madrinas is a community-based mentoring support program established to promote leadership and school retention among young Hispanic women.
Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research (CEDAR)
Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
3811 O'Hara St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 624-1060; FAX (412) 624-1929
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)
Division of Community Education
5600 Fishers Lane, Rockwall 2, Room 800
Rockville, MD 20857
(301) 443-0377 FAX (301) 443-5592
P.O. Box 2090
Los Angeles, CA 90051
715 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 437-1500; FAX (617) 437-9394
Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse
National Criminal Justice Reference Service
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20850
(800) 638-8736; FAX (301) 251-5212
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20852
(800) 729-6686; fax (301) 468-6433
National Crime Prevention Council
1700 Street, N.W. Second Floor
Washington, D.C. 20006-3817
202-466-6272; FAX (202) 296-1356
Date posted: 1996