More than 50 employees of the Ventura Unified School District, most working in elementary schools, completed a week of training Friday designed to help them deal with classroom problems generated by drugs and alcohol.
The program is aimed at battling substance abuse by combining efforts in prevention, intervention and support and by involving students, parents and community groups.
The training helps educators set up student assistance programs, which are already in place at Ventura, Buena and Mar Vista high schools.
Not only drug abusers, but students who are at risk because of alcoholic family members, or who are subject to depression brought on by divorce and separation, are targets of the program.
“It’s not a real flashy program, but it’s very effective,” said Judy Seyle, health services coordinator for the Ventura Unified School District.
“It’s helping us address the whole complex issue of chemical dependency.”
Up to 35% of the nation’s kindergarten through 12th-grade students are affected directly or indirectly by drug use, according to federal studies.
A 1985 study of students in Ventura Unified’s seventh, ninth and 11th grades indicated that one of four students used alcohol or marijuana regularly.
“We’re finding that chemical dependency is affecting more people than we ever imagined,” said Nancy Bradford, Saticoy Elementary School principal.
“We need to intervene now, at the elementary school level.”
Bradford, whose school implemented a student assistance program in January, said about one in four Saticoy students are affected by the drug and alcohol problems of some member of their family.
According to Seyle, four middle schools have programs under way and six elementary schools are developing programs.
The training program that ended Friday was attended primarily by elementary school teachers.
According to the county schools health coordinator, Jean Varden, most county school districts have implemented some form of the assistance program in the past three years.
“At the beginning we were focusing on high school and middle school implementation,” Varden said. “Now we’re seeing the importance and value at the elementary school level too.”