Grade 8 Verbal Screening for Substance Use

Grade 8 Verbal Screening for Substance Use

In March 2016, Governor Charles Baker signed An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention, otherwise known as the Opioid Law, that set forth new mandates for schools beginning the 2017-2018 school year. This law was designed to address the ongoing substance abuse crisis that has been occurring with teens in the Commonwealth. One part of the law requires school districts to utilize a screening tool to assess student use of illegal substances. Our recent Youth Risk Behavior survey revealed that some of our students try alcohol and/or drugs by the end of high school. As a district, we have implemented a screening tool in grade 8 in order to be proactive and to reinforce the importance of substance education through our substance prevention curriculum delivered during 21st Century Skills classes. 

In order to help prevent students from starting to use substances, or intervene with early use, PCMS staff (nurse and guidance counselors) will be providing an interview‐based screening for our 8th-grade students about their use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. The screening tool that will be used is the most commonly used substance use screening tool for adolescents in Massachusetts, the CRAFFT. Student screening sessions will be brief (5‐10 minutes) and conducted confidentially in private, one‐on‐one meetings. Students who are not using substances will have their healthy choices reinforced by the screener. For students who report using a substance, or is at risk for future substance use, the screener will provide brief verbal feedback and additional literature. If it is determined the reported behaviors puts the child at risk, parents will be contacted. 

As with any school screening, you have the right to opt your child out of this screening. If you would like your child to be opted out of this screening, please contact Joanne Earner,  the PCMS Nurse, by email at or by dropping off a letter to the school.

An opt-out letter must be submitted by Thursday, March 21, 2019. The screening is voluntary, and students may choose not to answer any or all of the screening questions when asked. The screening will be conducted during the term 3 academic check-ins which will begin on March 22nd for 8th-grade students.

In order to reinforce healthy choices, all students will receive some educational materials and a resource list at the time of the screening that discusses the prevention of substance abuse. One way to prevent youth substance use is to talk with your child about substance use and the long term effects. It is never too early, or late, to open the lines of communication with your child. Together, schools and parents can make a difference for our youth in Pembroke. We thank you in advance and appreciate your support in working with us. 


Donna McGarrigle, Principal 

Joanne Earner, School Nurse