How much more can our Schools do? New Law makes School Districts Drug Screeners!!

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I know and fully understand the Opioid Abuse Issue that is running wild through Lowell and Massachusetts but a proposed new Law being signed into effect next Monday will require schools to not only have an anti-drug curriculum but now School Districts are going to be required to “Verbally Screen” students for drug use!

We have so much mandated testing, we feed many kids breakfast & lunch and in some cases Super and in a lot of cases provide day care before and after school, we have police in the buildings and now the State wants to have Schools start teaching anti-drug classes and ” verbally screening” for drugs without providing districts with any more money. When will these unfunded mandates end, How much can we continue to expect our schools to do?

Drug Education is important no doubt but why is it always the school district that has to be the ones mandated to do these things? Where do parents come in and why don’t they make parents responsible? Why doesn’t the State and Federal Government if they are going to mandate things, pay for them?

Councilor Elliott one of the newest State employee’s isn’t wasting any time jumping on this new law to gain points with his new boss the Governor. Before this law is even signed he has a motion on the City Council Agenda this week asking the Mayor to get a report from the School Supt. on how he plans to implement this new law! #grandstandingantics!

Here’s the portion of Bill H.4056 dealing with schools:

Section 96. Each public school shall have a policy regarding substance use prevention and the education of its students about the dangers of substance abuse. The school shall notify the parents or guardians of all students attending the school of the policy and shall post the policy on the school’s website. The policy, and any standards and rules enforcing the policy, shall be prescribed by the school committee in conjunction with the superintendent or the board of trustees of a charter school.

The department of elementary and secondary education, in consultation with the department of public health, shall provide guidance and recommendations to assist schools with developing and implementing effective substance use prevention and abuse education policies and shall make such guidance and recommendations publicly available on the department’s website. Guidance and recommendations may include educating parents or guardians on recognizing warning signs of substance abuse and providing available resources. Guidance and recommendations shall be reviewed and regularly updated to reflect applicable research and best practices.

Each school district and charter school shall file its substance use prevention and abuse education policies with the department of elementary and secondary education in a manner and form prescribed by the department.

Section 97. (a) Subject to appropriation, each city, town, regional school district, charter school or vocational school district shall utilize a verbal screening tool to screen pupils for substance use disorders. Screenings shall occur on an annual basis and occur at 2 different grade levels as recommended by the department of elementary and secondary education, in consultation with the department of public health. Parents or guardians of a pupil to be screened pursuant to this section shall be notified prior to the start of the school year. Verbal screening tools shall be approved by the department of elementary and secondary education, in conjunction with the department of public health. De-identified screening results shall be reported to the department of public health, in a manner to be determined by the department of public health, not later than 90 days after completion of the screening.

(b) A pupil or the pupil’s parent or guardian may opt out of the screening by written notification at any time prior to or during the screening. A city, town, regional school district, charter school or vocational school district utilizing a verbal screening tool shall comply with the department of elementary and secondary education’s regulations relative to consent.

(c) Any statement, response or disclosure made by a pupil during a verbal substance use disorder screening shall be considered confidential information and shall not be disclosed by a person receiving the statement, response or disclosure to any other person without the prior written consent of the pupil, parent or guardian, except in cases of immediate medical emergency or a disclosure is otherwise required by state law. Such consent shall be documented on a form approved by the department of public health and shall not be subject to discovery or subpoena in any civil, criminal, legislative or administrative proceeding. No record of any statement, response or disclosure shall be made in any form, written, electronic or otherwise, that includes information identifying the pupil.

(d) The department of elementary and secondary education shall notify each school district in writing of the requirement to screen students for substance use disorders pursuant to this section. School districts with alternative substance use screening policies may, on a form provided by the department, opt out of the required verbal screening tool. The form shall be signed by the school superintendent and provide a detailed description of the alternative substance use program the district has implemented and the reasons why the required verbal screening tool is not appropriate for the district.

(e) No person shall have a cause of action for loss or damage caused by an act or omission resulting from the implementation of this section.

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