Public Schools' Identification and Management of Underage Alcohol Use: A Qualitative Study
Objective: In this qualitative study, we investigated how public schools in the Miami-Dade County School District identify and manage students' underage alcohol use and to explore the benefits and challenges of systematic screening for underage alcohol use in district schools. Methods: We conducted face-to-face interviews with 16 school officials directly responsible for addressing underage alcohol use incidents at district middle and high schools. These individuals included assistant principals, guidance counselors, social workers and school-based health-care professionals. A grounded-theory approach was used to code and synthesize informants' responses. Results: No informants reported systematic screening for underage alcohol use at their schools, although their middle and high schools employed a range of intervention strategies. Emergent themes reflected common ways by which students using alcohol were identified, factors influencing underage alcohol use, and barriers to screening intervention implementation. Lack of access to acute intoxication events, differing policies across schools, inadequate resources, and reliance on administrator discretion rather than explicit policy mandates appear to undermine the development of consistent strategies for addressing suspected or reported underage alcohol use. Conclusion: Public schools may serve as key implementation contexts for future universal or selected screening initiatives to identify and manage cases of underage alcohol use. The benefits and challenges perceived by school staff and administrators – especially for implementing consistent policies across schools – are critical to the development of acceptable, feasible, and sustainable alcohol screening initiatives.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: November 1, 2019
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