NJ Taking the L.E.A.D. in Preventing Substance Abuse & Violence in Our Schools
As the problem of youth substance abuse and violence becomes ever more urgent, it seems important to highlight the role of NJASA in helping to foster an important turning point in state drug prevention education. Among the many different vectors toward the prevention and early intervention of substance abuse (school, family, community, media), there has been an important niche for active law enforcement officers to teach and co-teach drug education curricula. The no-cost advantages include the presence of uniformed officers in schools, their comprehensive knowledge of street drugs and trends, and student identification with knowledgeable and empathic police.
New Jersey educators understood the importance of school-based programming, but, like other state educators, were reluctant to use valuable class hours for drug education curricula that had no evidence of effectiveness. In 2011, the Executive Board and Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators sent a clear message to School Districts and Law Enforcement authorities throughout New Jersey. The message supported the potential value of police teaching in schools, but stressed the importance of teaching a tested and proven effective curriculum that meets New Jersey’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) laws and Core Curriculum Content Standards. Over the past few years, NJASA continued to press for relevant and effective curricula appropriate for presentation by law enforcement officers.
Despite resistance from entrenched national interests, NJASA’s firm policy generated a process that has resulted in the enthusiastic adoption of a proven K-12 curriculum, perfect for adoption by officer-instructors and teachers alike. NJASA’s stance also helped birth a dynamic statewide organization of educators, law enforcement executives, and civic leaders designed to support the training, implementation and excellence of the effort.
THE NEED FOR L.E.A.D. TO SERVE YOUThere were several turning points in the statewide move toward proven and effective substance abuse curricula. One occurred when the NJASA rejected implementation of a 5th and 6th grade substance abuse curriculum that was untested, unproven and did not include mention of marijuana or other drugs, all mandated by state education guidelines. Soon after the rejection of unresponsive curricula, state education and enforcement leadership validated a science-driven curriculum, with 25 years of research and training behind it. In 2014, a new nonprofit organization, L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) was established to offer and implement Proven Effective Curricula! Subsequently, L.E.A.D. adopted the Mendez Foundation’s Too Good for Drugs & Violence family of curricula. Age-appropriate, honoring knowledge about the effects of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, heroin inhalants and other drugs, these curricula have passed perhaps the highest national standards, e.g., declared effective by the US Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse. (Both substance abuse and violence prevention units were awarded effectiveness status.) In addition, the curriculum is very well received by students and teachers.
When this author was trained in 1988 in school based drug prevention, we did not have standards, federal drug and mental health registries or solid programmatic research. Now we do have benchmarks and reasonable outcome measures, validated by consensual scientific peer review such as the US HHS National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). The importance of proven effectiveness was just as relevant for NJ police chiefs and local authorities. They needed to justify a police officer using time to be in the school setting.
THE PRESENT AND FUTURE: L.E.A.D.Founded in 2014, L.E.A.D. was the brainchild of Law Enforcement and Educational leaders who felt that the time had come to develop a comprehensive evidence based means for law enforcement agencies to ensure that they provide proven effective methods to serve their respective communities.
There are many benefits of L.E.A.D. for many different public beneficiaries; listed below are a few:
Law enforcement agencies• A Charitable means to support their initiatives
• Proven Effective K-12 Drug and Violence Prevention Curricula called Too Good for Drugs and Violence
• A Team of Staff and Leaders to assist their endeavors
• A Branded Organization to bring their Organization to the next level and meet all accreditation standards
• On The Street Initiatives to support all Law Enforcement prevention efforts.
School Districts• Peace of mind knowing that the curricula being offered by their Law Enforcement Agency has been tested, proven effective and listed on various federal registries K-12
• Assurance that educational leaders have reviewed initiatives and they have a voice into ensuring program longevity and support
• A resource to make their school SAFE AND SOUND
• Justification to allow Police Officers in the classroom
Communities• Assurance that the school based program being taught WORKS and justifies the expense of a Police Officer in the budget and their children will be taught good information
• Benefits from Creative Community Policing efforts to make their communities safe.
• Enhance relationship with their Police Department to serve their needs for protection and personal assistance
• Collective understanding that the community/police program has achieved high standards and is working hard to keep them Safe & Drug Free.
Drug FreeWe are delighted to report that within one year, L.E.A.D. has become the largest New Jersey School Based Law Enforcement Charity specializing in drug and violence prevention.
Elements of the “Too Good” Curriculum“Too Good for Drugs” and “Too Good for Violence” is a family of comprehensive drug and violence prevention programs designed to mitigate risk factors and build protection against problem behaviors.
Substance Abuse InformationCredible, specific information about the nature, function and harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol and drugs is included as an essential foundation for prevention. Far too many deaths have been caused by ignorance about substances, from prescription medications to synthetic marijuana substitutes. Too Good allows local officer-instructors to integrate local usage trends, anecdotes and priorities for discussion.
Social Emotional Learning
Too Good uses framework of social and emotional skills that develops goal-setting, decision-making, and effective communication skills. Too Good also builds additional skills for peer pressure refusal, pro-social bonding, conflict resolution, and media literacy.
Easy to Teach and Fun to Learn
Too Good’s interactive cooperative learning design promotes a spirited and engaging learning environment. Games, role-plays, and thought-provoking activities bring the skills and concepts to life through a practical application approach that integrates well within the classroom environment. Scripted lessons, detailed concept rationales, clearly established objectives, and lesson-planning tools make implementation easy and worry-free whether you are a classroom teacher, law enforcement professional, school counselor, social worker, or community health educator.
A comprehensive body of evidence demonstrates the positive effects of Too Good on emotional competency skills, decision-making ability, intentions to use illicit substances, substance use behavior, and intentions to engage in aggressive behavior. Too Good programs have demonstrated effectiveness in third party evaluations.
Comprehensive and Additive
The Too Good skill development model maximizes understanding and application through a deliberate phased design. Each skill is introduced in a sequence of lessons that build the concepts of one skill to lay the foundation for the next. Each skill is then reapplied in the drug-specific and conflict-specific lessons. This comprehensive approach maximizes the protective effects of the skill set to address numerous risky behaviors with lasting effects. Discrete curricular formats can be offered at any appropriate grade level from K-12.
Promotes Academic Achievement
Outcome research suggests that Too Good promotes academic achievement through social emotional skill development, alignment with education standards and priorities, and healthy and supportive classroom management. Together with an engaging interactive design, this comprehensive framework builds the basis for a safe, supportive, and respectful learning environment.
KUDOS To NJASA! So, I and the entire L.E.A.D. family, send congratulations to New Jersey School Superintendents & Administrators! Thanks to your Association, Police Officers in the State are now teaching proven evidence based curricula. If your staff wishes to research the relative appropriateness of various substance abuse education curricula touted as efficacious, reliable information is easily available online. Obviously, just because a curriculum was tested and proven effective at the High School level does not mean that the same named curricula at the elementary level has equivalent outcomes. It is important that any curricula being offered by your police agency meets New Jersey's ATOD laws and Core Curriculum Content Standards at the grade level offered. Most importantly, ensure that curricula were appropriately tested, proven effective, justify the officers time in the classroom, and shows results to our students!
Fortunately, your Association has reviewed the Too Good Research which was tested and proven effective at various levels to justify distinction as a K-12 evidence based family of curricula! Fortunately, most localities have heeded NJASA’s perspective. More and more districts are transitioning and taking advantage of the availability of Too Good and L.E.A.D.’s training and support system. We are here to serve your community to keep your kids drug and violence free.
For more specific information about L.E.A.D. or the Too Good curriculum, call: 609-468-3215 and check our website: www.leadrugs.org