Dec. 13, 2003 – Education Commissioner, Dr. Noreen Michael, announces that the Department of Education has received a grant for $1-million to fund implementation of the territory's Safe and Drug-Free Program. With this grant, students at selected public schools will participate in a number of educational programs aimed at reducing risk behaviors associated with violence and drug abuse.
"The Education Department and the Department of Human Services began work last year to address issues of drugs and safety among our school aged population," said Michael, "the first year of our collaboration was spent conducting assessments and evaluating various programs. This portion of the grant award will enable the Department to implement its a Safe and Drug-Free Program in several of the territory's public and private schools."
"Children in elementary school have very different drug and safety issues from those experienced by middle and high school aged students," continued Michael, "for that reason the program has been divided into two sections. Kindergarten children will participate in the program 'Talking about Touching' while children in grades one through six will be given training in the nationally renowned program, Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS). Middle and senior level students will benefit from the 'Life Skills' program."
Both the PATHS and Life Skills programs have violence prevention and dispute resolution as their core focus. PATHS has been designed to help young students identify and use healthier alternatives to violence. 'Life Skills', which will begin at the 7th grade level, continues the non-violence training while incorporating drug prevention education.
"Parents also play a major role in these programs," stated Dr. Michael, "Both PATHS and Life Skills have a parental component to train parents to support the skills their children are learning in school."
In September teachers received their initial training in how to teach the PATHS and Life Skills programs and are now in the process of integrating them into their daily classroom curriculum. This will allow students to learn and immediately put to use their new 'skills'.
"Actions aimed at reducing the incidences of violence and drug use among our school aged population should not solely be reactive," Dr. Michael continued, "We must determine why students engage in these activities and address the root causes. Data collected nationwide indicate that students, who are equipped to cope with stressful events or who are given options other than immediately resorting to violence, will generally opt for the choice that de-escalates the situation.
Relative to drug use, the Life Skills program's early intervention focus specifically targets what is known as the "gateway drugs." In addition to arming students with information on the negative impact of drugs, this program also provides students with proven methods to cope with factors which often cause drug usage such as peer pressure or the lack of appropriate role models.
The grant, which falls under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, Title IV, Part A, Subpart 1, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, covers a two-year period, and provides grants to schools and communities to reduce the incidents of violence and drug abuse. Monies received in September for implementation of the program represent the second year in the current two-year cycle. It is anticipated that the territory will receive similar grants to continue running this program for the next two grant periods.
During the first year of the grant cycle, the Department of Education collaborated with the Department of Human Services to complete an extensive territorial needs assessment that included risk factors, researched, identified and selected the programs considered most appropriate for VI students, created monitoring and reporting methods, and developed procedures for performance outcome measurements. During year two of this grant cycle, teachers are trained, and the programs will be initiated at the selected sites.
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