This policy sets out the framework within which Gort Community School manages issues relating to substance use. Our objective is the welfare, care and protection of each student of the school.

The policy addresses two major areas

  • The education we will provide to students relating to alcohol, tobacco and drugs
  • The management of incidents that relate to these substances.

We in Gort Community School define the term ‘substance’ in the broadest possible terms, to include alcohol, tobacco, legal/illegal drugs, over the counter/prescription medicines and other dangerous or mind/mood altering substances.

This policy is applied in conjunction with our Code of Good School Behaviour.


Although this policy primarily addresses substance use in respect of our students, the policy does apply to all teaching and other staff, parents/guardians and others, insofar as the policy may relate to them. The policy will apply during school-time and to all school related trips and activities, whether occurring inside or outside normal school hours.

‘School’ includes school buildings, grounds, playing fields, community centre and public areas where students congregate coming to and going from school.


The Mission Statement of Gort Community School endeavours to provide a caring place where students feel secure and can achieve to the best of his/her ability. We strive to develop not only the academic potential of all students but also the moral and physical. Our school also seeks to imbue a sense of respect for one another, the school environment and the whole community.

This policy is part of a general pastoral approach being adopted by the school to ensure a healthy, caring and supportive learning environment. The Substance Use Policy is one among a number of policies that serve to assist us in fulfilling our aims. It also serves to protect the safety, health and welfare of our students and staff.

The school has a right to protect and promote our ethos and our reputation by requiring certain standards of behaviour and prohibiting certain practices. In addition all procedures and sanctions outlined in this policy will be in line with the caring ethos of the school.


  • The world in which our young people live presents them with many challenges that effect their health and well-being. These challenges include exposure to alcohol, tobacco and drugs. It is part of our remit in Gort Community School to educate our students so that they will be adequately prepared to face these challenges.
  • The extent of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Ireland, in particular among young people
  • Under the Education Act 1998 we are obliged to promote the social and personal development of our students and to provide health education for them.
  • Government policy as set forth in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, 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 Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, Section VI, states that all schools should be actively engaged in the process of developing and agreeing a Substance Use Policy in line with action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy and DES guidelines as set forth in Circular Letter 18/02.


Gort Community School aims

  • To provide a safe learning and teaching environment for all our students and staff.
  • To provide a comprehensive programme for all our students in substance use issues.
  • To ensure that we in Gort Community School deal with incidents relating to substance use in a planned and considered way and in accordance with our statutory responsibilities.
  • To manage incidents of substance misuse in a clear and consistent manner.
  • To contribute to local and national strategies in relation to substance use education and prevention.
  • To minimise the dangers to our young people caused by substance misuse within our community.
  • To support our parents and pupils in understanding and addressing substance misuse.


Gort Community School does not accept or tolerate the possession, use or supply of banned or prohibited and/or drug paraphernalia by any student or staff member, in the school, on school trips and outings or during any school related activity.

Parents of students taking prescribed medication must inform the school, in writing, of this fact. No medicines will be administered by the staff of the school to any student with the exception of medication supplied by parents/guardians to be administered in emergencies.

The Substance Use Policy of Gort Community School is divided into three sections

  1. Substance Use Education and Prevention
  2. The Management of Incidents relation to substance use
  3. Staff Training and Development.

1. Substance Use Education and Prevention

Gort Community School, within the resources available to it, will provide appropriate education programmes on substance use/abuse for all its students. As education about alcohol, tobacco and drugs is most effective when provided within the broader context of a Social, Personal and Health Education Programme the main focus of education will be provided in this way, in particular for Junior Cycle students. Each junior cycle core class will have one forty-minute period of SPHE per week for each of the three years of junior cycle.

Education on substance use will also be provided through other subject areas, in particular, Religious Education, Science, Physical Education and Home Economics (Junior Cycle).

Class work will be supported from time to time by inviting speakers to address the students on related issues. Such presentations to students will always be done under the supervision of the class teacher.

Role of Parents/Guardians:

Parents/Guardians have a supportive role to play in regard to our education programmes on substance related issues. Parents are expected to

  • Acknowledge the importance of these programmes
  • Recognise that they are partners of Gort Community School in relation to informing and educating their children regarding substance use/abuse
  • Assist and cooperate fully with the school as it seeks to deal justly and effectively with incidents that may arise.

To assist parents/guardians in their role Gort Community School will

  • Keep them informed on what is happening in the school regarding education programmes for their children
  • Provide opportunities for parents/guardians, through our Parents’ Council, to inform and educate themselves on issues relating to substance use/abuse
  • Provide advice and information and establish links with relevant authorities and support bodies.

2. The Management of Incidents in relation to Substance Use/Abuse

In the event of a substance abuse incident, Gort Community School will seek to strike a balance between the welfare of the student(s) involved and the welfare of the school community as a whole and the reputation of the school. The school will also take due care to achieve a balance between a pastoral and disciplinary response to such an incident.

An incident may be defined as

  • The use or suspected use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and/or any mind or mood altering substances on the school premises or during a school related activity
  • Intoxicated/unusual behaviour
  • Disclosure about use
  • Finding substances and/or associated paraphernalia
  • Possession and/or supply on the school premises or during a school-related activity.


  • Where it is apparent that there is immediate danger to a student, students or the school community, the school reserves the right to suspend or remove temporarily from the school any student involved in a suspected abuse incident pending a further and complete investigation of the incident.
  • The reporting staff member will complete an Incident Report Form.
  • The school will take all steps necessary to fully investigate and assess any abuse incident and will take whatever time it deems necessary to do this.
  • The school will take possession of any banned or prohibited substance and paraphernalia associated with the incident. A record will be kept of all such items, and they will be retained pending completion of the investigation, unless otherwise instructed by appropriate outside agency/agencies.
  • In the event of an incident, the school will seek statements from all persons involved in, concerned with, or having knowledge of the incident and will record these statements.
  • The school will maintain a written record of all stages of the investigation, including records referred to in the above steps, communications with other people or agencies involved or concerned with the matter under investigation, the investigation outcome, decisions taken and the rationale for these decisions, any penalties or disciplinary measures imposed following an investigation, and the management and outcome of any appeal that may arise following an investigation.
  • The school, at its own discretion, will liase with any appropriate outside agency and seek advice or assistance, as it deems appropriate in relation to the investigation of an incident.
  • If the circumstances merit and the investigation is continuing, the school will put the full particulars of the incident to the student(s) concerned and the parents/guardians in the following manner
    • Copies of all records deemed relevant to the position of the student concerned and to the nature of the complaints or allegations that a student is facing will be made available to the student and his/her parents/guardians, at the discretion of the school, in time to permit the student a reasonable opportunity to make his/her own reply to the matters at issue and any representation that he/she would wish to make or have made on his/her behalf
    • The school will allow the student concerned and his/her parents/guardians reasonable time to respond to the matters at issue. The school will take into account any response made and any other relevant extraneous considerations or mitigating circumstances that may be appropriate to the specific case.
    • The school shall shortly thereafter, inform the student and his/her parents/guardians of the school’s findings and the reasons therein. If the school finds that the student has been guilty of or was involved in or implicated in an incident, it shall indicate the penalty or sanctions that it intends to impose in the circumstances.
  • In relation to a verified and investigated incident, the Board of Management may implement disciplinary actions or sanctions, including but not limited to, an oral warning, a written warning, a suspension of three days duration, a suspension of more than three days duration, other sanctions short of expulsion, and expulsion.
  • The school can, at its sole discretion, postpone the issue of sanctions to take account of mitigating circumstances or representations that it considers should be taken into account.
  • The school will provide pastoral supports to the student(s) and parents/guardians affected by an incident of substance abuse. These supports may be provided by one or more of the following, the class tutor, the relevant year head, the school counsellor or chaplain.
  • Where appropriate, the school will provide advice and information in relation to counselling and make contact with relevant agencies if required.

The Involvement and Roles of Various Parties in an Incident Investigation.

The Principal or his delegate is the person responsible for all matters relating to this area. He may nominate the Deputy Principal or a relevant Year Head to act on his behalf in the investigation of a substance abuse incident.

The duties and responsibilities of the Principal (hereafter to be understood as meaning the Principal or his nominee) include the following:

  • The Principal is responsible for dealing with abuse incidents arising at the school
  • All reports of abuse incidents or suspected incidents must be reported to the Principal
  • The Principal makes all decisions regarding the investigation of an incident; communication with, liaison with, and reporting to relevant parties; and disclosure of information regarding an investigation
  • The Principal is responsible for keeping all relevant parties properly informed regarding developments in the investigation
  • The Principal is responsible for the secure and confidential storage of any written documentation and records associated with the incident
  • The Principal is responsible for taking possession of any banned or prohibited substances or drug paraphernalia and deciding what should be done with same upon appropriate advice.

The school may wish to contact the parents/guardians of a student for a variety of reasons regarding a suspected abuse incident. In such an event, the school will immediately inform parents/guardians – particularly where there is concern about the health and welfare of a child – and share any available information that may help parents/guardians in attending to their child’s health and well-being. The student will be kept informed about what is happening and why.

These actions will be undertaken without prejudice to the school’s separate and independent obligation to investigate and manage any abuse incident.


Gort Community School recognises the importance in limiting, as far as is practicable, the number of people involved in investigating and managing an abuse incident. We aim only to involve those properly concerned with an incident.

However, students and their parents/guardians accept that

  • The duty of the teachers and staff to the school community preclude them from offering total confidentiality to any student when they come in contact with an abuse incident or suspected abuse incident
  • The school may be required in a given situation to contact, as appropriate, such authorities/agencies as the Gardaí, HSE, NEPS etc
  • The school may need to engage the expert assistance of an appropriate third party to properly investigate an incident
  • The school may be duty bound to notify certain persons about an incident and/or the outcome of an incident investigation under statute, regulations or DES guidelines.


If contacted by the media following a substance abuse incident the school will not comment on any individual matter when an investigation is in progress, other than to outline its policy and procedures for managing incidents. The Principal will be the designated person for dealing with the media in such instances.

However. In the interests of our reputation, The Board of Management of Gort Community School may clarify the school’s position regarding an incident after the investigation has been completely concluded.


Gort Community School will provide training for staff, Board of Management members, Parents/Guardians and Students.

In relation to staff, the school

  • Will provide practical training for staff on substance related issues such as the recognition of such substances, the identification of symptoms and tell tale signs of substance use/abuse on a regular basis
  • Will facilitate training in the delivery of education programmes relating to alcohol, tobacco and drugs
  • Will provide specific training on the role of staff in relation to the management and investigation of an abuse incident.

In relation to Parents/Guardians and Board of Management members the school

  • Will provide opportunities to attend information sessions and workshops in relation to substance use/abuse and related issues
  • Will provide appropriate information, guidance, and support to the Board regarding issues relating to the investigation of and adjudication on substance abuse incidents.

In relation to students the school will

  • Offer all students programmes relating to alcohol, tobacco and drug education within the context of the programmes available in the school.


Gort Community School will monitor, review and evaluate this policy and all related procedures on an ongoing basis to ensure legal compliance and the maintenance of best practice.

Substance Use Policy Time-Frame

Staff Day 22nd December 2008:

Developing A Substance Use Policy Staff Workshop.

Facilitators: D. Corry & A. Talbot

Planning Workshop 28th May 2009:

Presentation of the Draft Policy by A. Talbot. Amendments presented by staff groups.

Staff Meeting 22nd December 2009:

Presentation of the Final Draft and ratification by the staff.

Board of Management 27th January 2010:

Amendments and ratification