Alcohol, A Drug of Choice for Scotts Valley Teens


Alcohol is reported to be the number one drug of choice among the nation’s youth. Local and county statistics mirror the national trend and confirm that binge drinking among youth in Santa Cruz County is at an alarmingly high rate. The County ranked sixth highest in the state for student use of alcohol in 2003. With underage alcohol use threatening the wellness of teens, the Grand Jury decided to investigate a local school district to determine student alcohol usage as well as the district’s approach to intervention and prevention programs.

To determine which district to study, student wellness statistics for all kindergarten through twelfth grade school districts in Santa Cruz County were analyzed. As a result, Scotts Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) was selected as the subject of the investigation.

Statistics related to SVUSD indicated that teen alcohol use is among the highest in the County. The district currently has limited intervention and prevention resources for students and uses suspension and expulsion to deter teen drinking. Although the school system is not responsible for the social problem of teen drinking, it is imperative that SVUSD step in and develop preventive solutions rather than impose punitive measures after the fact. The Grand Jury found that Santa Cruz County has a variety of prevention and intervention programs to reduce the use of alcohol and drugs among teens. The intent of this report is to encourage SVUSD to join forces with students, parents, city leaders, and county and local agencies to become aware of the problem, own the problem, and develop tools to resolve the problem of teen drinking.


Evidence-based Strategies: Procedures that are supported by systematic research using scientific methods to evaluate which approaches are most effective.

Binge Drinking: A pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or above. This pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks for males, or 4 or more drinks for females, in about 2 hours.

Pertinent Laws and Policies

California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS): The California Department of Education requires school districts to administer the California Healthy Kids Survey every two years starting in fifth grade, and to use the information for local planning and evaluation. The CHKS gathers information on behaviors such as physical activity and nutritional habits; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; school safety; and environmental and individual strengths.

California Physical Fitness Test: An annual physical fitness test that state law requires school districts to administer to all fifth, seventh, and ninth graders. The test designated for California public school students is the FITNESSGRAM, developed by The Cooper Institute. It assesses six major fitness areas, including aerobic capacity (cardiovascular endurance), body composition (percentage of body fat), abdominal strength and endurance, trunk strength and flexibility, upper body strength and endurance, and overall flexibility. The goal of the program is to educate students about physical fitness concepts to increase the likelihood students will adopt lifetime patterns of physical activity.

SVUSD Board Policy 5030 (a-e) Student Wellness: A protocol to address the goals of nutritional education, and physical activity as a means of promoting student wellness. The federal Child Nutrition and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004 (PL 108-265) includes a provision requiring all school districts participating in any federally-funded child nutrition program to establish a locally developed school wellness policy by the beginning of 2006-2007 school year.

SVUSD Board Policy 5131.6 (a-d) and Administrative Regulation 5131.6 (a-b) – Alcohol and Other Drugs: The board policy stipulates “The Superintendent or designee shall develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive prevention and intervention program that is coordinated with other school and community-based services and programs. The district’s programs shall be scientifically based and designed to prevent or reduce alcohol or other drug use and the possession and distribution of illegal drugs. It shall include primary prevention activities such as decision-making skills and conflict management, instruction, referral to a rehabilitation program, enforcement/discipline, activities that promote the involvement of parents/guardians, and coordination with appropriate community agencies and organizations.”

SVUSD Board Policy 5144.1 (a-d) and Administrative Regulation 5144.1 (a-u) – Suspension and Expulsion/Due Process: The policy establishes policies and standards of behavior to promote learning and protect the safety and well-being of all students. Students may be suspended or expelled if the policies and standards are violated. The Board of Education has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to serious offences in accordance with state and federal law. This approach makes the removal of potentially dangerous students from the classroom a top priority and ensures the standardized treatment of all students. Student due-process rights under the law are specified.

Zero-Tolerance Clause: A provision stipulating that any infraction of existing regulations, regardless of mistakes, ignorance, or even extenuating circumstances, will be met with full punishment.

Community Organizations Focused on Alcohol and Drug Use

Too Good for Drugs: A school-based prevention program designed to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among students. It offers a separate, developmentally-appropriate curriculum for each grade level. Each curriculum builds on earlier grade levels, an instructional design which enables students to learn important skills sequentially and retain them year after year.  

Together for Youth Collaborative/Unidos Para Nuestros Jovenes: A countywide alcohol and drug collaborative that meets monthly and is staffed by United Way of Santa Cruz County. Representatives from law enforcement, health services, youth-serving agencies, treatment and prevention services, probation, community-based organizations, businesses, the faith community, school staff, and local policy makers meet to analyze, discuss, and take positions and action on issues directly related to drug and alcohol use among Santa Cruz County youth.

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol: The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration promotes this program that uses a community approach to change local institutional policies to reduce youth access to alcohol. The seven stages of the program can be used to develop and introduce prevention and intervention strategies.

Community United to Reduce Bingeing (Project CURB): A program led by Together for Youth/Unidos Para Nuestros Jovenes, a United Way of Santa Cruz County led initiative. Project CURB works to reduce binge and underage drinking with prevention strategies that include raising community awareness, limiting access to alcohol, creating policy, and norm changes in the community.

Responsible Alcohol Merchant Awards: Designed to honor businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to combating the growing problem of underage drinking in the community. These merchants are rewarded for proactively using employee training programs and exemplary management policies to combat the sale of alcohol to people under 21.

Seven Challenges: A curriculum Santa Cruz City Schools has implemented to intervene with teens that have violations for alcohol and drug use. The school district works in partnership with Youth Services and county Alcohol and Drug Services. The five-week program uses group dialog and journal writing to help young people explore and understand how alcohol and drugs affect their lives. It gives young people an opportunity to scrutinize the benefits and harm from their substance use, and to reflect on their decisions. The program is optional and allows participating students to return to the classroom instead of being suspended.

Friday Night Live: A high school chapter program that builds partnerships for positive and healthy youth development and engages youth as active leaders and resources in their communities. Chapters include an adult advisor and high school students and meet on high school campuses. There is also a middle school /junior high program called Club Live.

Teen Peer Court: A program developed as part of Santa Cruz County juvenile justice system to divert first-offenders from the more formal Juvenile Court. High school students convene as a court and determine the appropriate judgment for each case referred from the county Probation Department and School Resource Officers. These are real cases. Teens have admitted the underlying offense and have elected to be judged by their peers.

Real DUI Court in School: A program offered by Santa Cruz County Office of Education to emphasize to students the consequences, both short and long term, of driving under the influence (DUI). The sentencing portion takes place in an actual courtroom set up at the school site where authentic DUI cases of young adults are adjudicated. Presentations incorporate youth DUI offenders being sentenced by a judicial officer; a young adult testimonial presenter; youth presenters; and a question and answer session with legal participants and testimonial speakers.



In 2004, federal and state legislation and regulations were enacted to help shape the policies and procedures developed by school districts to improve student wellness. The legislation primarily addressed nutritional education and physical activity. However, the intent of the legislation was to encourage the development of policies and practices related to student wellness that reflect the unique needs of students in each district in an effort to foster healthy student behaviors and achievement. Student wellness encompasses many health issues including alcohol, tobacco, drugs, bullying, violent behaviors, and lack of meaningful involvement in school.

Facts gathered on student attitudes and behaviors about drinking confirm the findings of local law enforcement and county health officials. The 2007 Youth Survey conducted by the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program Division and the United Way stated, “Alcohol remains the top drug of choice for youth both nationally and locally, and is reported as a leading cause of death among teens. Alcohol is one of the most common contributors to injury, homicides, suicide, sexual assaults, date rape, and other criminal behavior among youth.” National, state, and local surveys show that binge drinking rates have increased substantially in recent years.”

The 2007 Youth Survey also confirmed that national, state, and local surveys show that binge drinking rates have increased in recent years. Teen binge drinking in Santa Cruz County is at a high level with 70 to 80 percent of students living in Felton and Scotts Valley reporting binge drinking over the past year.  Sixty to 70 percent in Ben Lomond and Soquel as well as 50 to 60 percent of youth in parts of Aptos, Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Watsonville reported binge drinking during the past 12 months. In addition, the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper in February 26, 2009 reported, “A study found that 70% of eleventh graders drank alcohol and 46% have smoked marijuana in their lifetimes.”

The County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program thoroughly studied the teenage drinking problem in the County and has developed a variety of effective evidence-based prevention services to reduce alcohol and drug use among youth. The programs have been successfully used in various districts throughout the county. However, SVUSD has been reluctant to move from familiar traditional punitive interventions.

Scope of the Project

In determining the district to study, the Grand Jury established parameters to guide the selection process. Many districts in Santa Cruz County are either elementary districts or high school districts. The county has four unified districts that service kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) students. The selection of a K-12 unified school district that was small to medium in size was ideal for determining the impact and effects of a student wellness program from elementary through high school. The study also needed to focus on a district that had a significant number of students using alcohol as reported by statistics.

SVUSD was chosen for the investigation because it represents a kindergarten through twelfth grade system of approximately 2,650 students. The investigation was designed to evaluate the district’s student wellness policies, plans, and programs to address the unique needs of students in the district as determined by state and local assessment trends. The following areas were the focus of the investigation:

  • Student results from the California Healthy Kid’s Survey and other measures
  • District board policies and their implementation
  • School prevention and intervention programs and practices
  • Alcohol and drug intervention and prevention resources within and outside the district


1.      CHKS analysis, as reported in the chart below, shows that the number of SVUSD fifth graders who ever used alcohol had increased by 15 percentage points in less than three years. The findings also indicate that fewer fifth graders had the perception that alcohol is bad in 2007 compared to 2004.


California Healthy Kids Survey Data for SVUSD

Percentages for Fall 2004 and Spring 2007 for Students in Grades 5





SVUSD Fifth Grade

CA Healthy Kids Survey

Fall 2004

Spring 2007

Ever used alcohol



Perception Alcohol is Bad






No Response Required


2.      The CHKS analysis for SVUSD seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders is reported in the chart below. The statistics indicate that using alcohol once in life, during the last 30 days, and being drunk at school had slightly increased from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, fifty percent of eleventh grade students reported being sick from using alcohol as compared to 41 percent in 2004. However, the perception that alcohol is bad remains high through the surveyed years.


California Healthy Kids Survey Data for SVUSD


Grade 7

Grade 7

Grade 9

Grade 9

Grade 11

Grade 11




Spring 2007



Spring 2007





Once in life







Last 30 days














Sick – alcohol







Binge 30 days







Alcohol is Bad







Percentages for Fall 2004 and Spring 2007 for Students in Grades 7, 9, and 11

No Response Required


3.      Community agencies administered the 2007 Youth Survey that confirmed the CHKS findings. Scotts Valley teens were included in the surveys. The results indicated that county teens and families demonstrated high cultural acceptance of alcohol and drugs and that many parents believe alcohol is not a problem. Findings included:

·        Students have easy access to alcohol and other drugs from social and commercial sources.

·        Santa Cruz County ranked sixth highest out of 58 counties in the state for binge drinking.

·        Seventy-three percent of youth report receiving alcohol from adults they know.

·        Sixty-six percent of adults believe parental intervention would have no impact on alcohol consumption by underage youth.

·        When high-risk youth are suspended or expelled for using alcohol, they do not receive any intervention services.


No Response Required


4.      From elementary to high school, SVUSD site administrators reported that they review CHKS results and measure its accuracy compared to actual student issues and performance that they observe and handle on a daily basis. At the elementary and middle schools, the CHKS information is evaluated against actual student behaviors on campus to determine the validity of student answers. If there is a discrepancy between the CHKS survey and experience, the information in question is included in the annual site survey administered by the school.


No Response Required


5.      Administrators at the high school review the CHKS findings. However the administration does not make the information available to staff members who work closest to students. These staff members were not involved in prevention and intervention planning.


ResponseScotts Valley Unified School District – DISAGREES

On March 5, 2008, a training in recognizing symptoms of teen drug use was provided to the staff of Scotts Valley High School, with participation required of all personnel. The training included trends in teen drug use and a presentation and discussion of the findings from the 2007 California Healthy Kids Survey. In addition, the results of the CHKS are discussed and considered at all school sites, including the high school, in the development of the sites’ School Safety Plan and the Single Plan for Student Achievement.

6.      District and site administrators were asked if they thought the CHKS information was a reliable assessment of student alcohol use. All site administrators agreed that alcohol usage is a problem and that the statistics were important in identifying student perceptions and trends. However district administration did not believe the CHKS results were relevant and should not be used to determine if an issue is important or not. District officials felt the data was unreliable because the children taking the survey did not need the results for grades or for themselves; therefore they were not honest in their answers. Further, district administration believes teen alcohol use is a “community problem” which needs to be resolved by the community rather than the district.


ResponseScotts Valley Unified School District – DISAGREES

This summary by the Grand Jury does not accurately reflect the opinion of district administration or the comments district administrators made to Grand Jury members. The administration does recognize that students use alcohol, that it is a community problem, and that schools are an essential partner in the community response to the problem.  The administration recognizes the importance of data provided by the CHKS, and makes use of survey findings in assessing needs and developing student services. Research shows that in anonymous, confidential surveys (like the CHKS) there is a high degree of validity in student answers—even with sensitive questions (O’Malley, Johnston, Bachman & Schulenberg, 2002). A few students may under-report any given behavior, but there are also those who will over-report instead, resulting in a balancing out. However, the introduction of WestEd’s Technical Report of the CHKS data stresses the need to utilize multiple sources of information: “It is important to interpret these results with caution. Results can be significantly impacted by response rates, the type of parental consent used (passive or active), gender differences, regional variations and other issues…. The CHKS is only one of many data sources.” Other data include information from law enforcement, counseling and intervention professionals, parents and students. District personnel analyze CHKS data, discuss it with staff, and provide instruction and appropriate interventions to lessen risky student behaviors, including use of alcohol, based in part on CHKS responses.


7.      SVUSD Board Policy 5030 (a-e) Student Wellness was adopted on April 22, 2008. As required by law, a Health and Wellness Committee was formed to create the policy and present it to the board for approval. Agendas and attendance documents were provided but minutes of the meeting were not available. The wellness policy focuses primarily on nutrition and physical activity. Other factors such as alcohol and drug intervention and prevention are not mentioned in the policy.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District - AGREES

“Other factors such as alcohol and drug intervention and prevention” are addressed in Board Policy 5131.6 (a-d), provided to the Grand Jury during their investigation and acknowledged by the Grand Jury in Finding # 8, immediately below.


8.      SVUSD Board Policy 5131.6 (a-d) and Administrative Regulation 5131.6 (a-b) clearly define a comprehensive process for developing district programs related to alcohol and other drugs, but the Jury found no evidence that substantiates the existence of a district-developed comprehensive program to comply with Board Policy 5131.6.


Response: Scotts Valley Unified School District – DISAGREES

The Policy is as described. Information and documentation were provided to the Grand Jury in November, 2008, at both the district and site levels to show the existence of a comprehensive program to comply with Board Policy. The heart of the program is a research-based program, Too Good For Drugs (TGFD), taught to all students in kindergarten through ninth grade. This program is supplemented by resiliency-themed lessons in literature in all grades and supported in science and physical education classes at all sites, where students learn the physiological consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. Mandatory assemblies for all students and staff at the secondary sites center around the dangers of drug and alcohol use; presenters include students and staff, community members, and officers from the Scotts Valley Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.  Additional interventions and supports for individual students and groups are provided by counselors at all levels and by a Youth Services Counselor at the secondary level funded jointly by the district and the Scotts Valley Rotary Club. The Scotts Valley Police Department provides DARE training for fifth grade students. City and county agencies provide regular assemblies to make students aware of the consequences of risky behaviors.


9.      SVUSD introduced revised Board Policy 5144.1 (a-d) Suspension and Expulsion/Due Process in April 2007. The policy has a zero-tolerance clause that was intended to help eliminate the lax attitude toward alcohol and drug usage by students. Under this policy first-time alcohol or drug offenders are suspended for five days. Students who violate the policy twice are recommended for expulsion. Parents are contacted and the police may be involved depending upon the circumstances. When a suspended student returns to school, at least one counseling session is mandatory. A voluntary eight-week after-school program is available. Some school personnel voiced the opinion that the zero-tolerance approach was very punitive and that the school district did not have many alternatives to suspension/expulsion.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY DISAGREES

The zero tolerance approach as defined in BP 5144.1 applies explicitly to “serious offenses in accordance with state and federal law. This approach makes the removal of potentially dangerous students from the classroom a top priority….”  The district has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to drug use only in that students found using drugs on campus are suspended. It is the philosophy of the district that drug-free campuses are critical to students’ safety and learning. Participation in the eight-week counseling program is not voluntary; this program is a requirement for students suspended for drug use. The program is also available on a volunteer basis for students who self-refer or who are referred by their parents to participate in drug use counseling. It should also be noted that the California Education Code requires the recommendation of expulsion and/or allows suspension/expulsion for a number of drug and alcohol related offenses. As noted in the Scotts Valley High School Student Handbook, all students are made aware of these offenses and the consequences for committing them.


10.  Scotts Valley City Council adopted a Social Host Ordinance in November 2008. The ordinance allows law enforcement to hold accountable the host of a gathering where alcohol is served to, consumed by, or in possession of minors. Fines for hosting such gatherings can range from $250 to $1,000 in a twelve month period.


Response:  Scotts Valley Police Department – AGREES


11.  Scotts Valley Police Department no longer provides a School Resource Officer (SRO) on the high school campus. The role of the SRO is to deter crime activity on campus and be accessible to students to create a positive relationship as well as act as a mentor. District and site officials stated that they would like to have a law enforcement officer return to the high school campus.


Response:  Scotts Valley Police Department – AGREES

Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY AGREES

The school district remains firmly supportive of returning an SRO at the high school campus. This important position was funded by the district through use of

categorical and grant funds. The SRO was eliminated due to understaffing at the Police Department, and school district resources for the position were redirected to pay for campus supervisors. The district is in ongoing communication with the Police Department and will work to reestablish the SRO position as soon as police staffing allows.


12.  SVHS school officials indicated that the lack of surveillance cameras at the high school limits the ability to detect student alcohol use on campus. Instead, the school uses the following methods to curtail the use of alcohol and drugs on campus:

·        Three aides supervise the campus and parking lots.

·        The principal and assistant principal assist with supervision.

·        The campus is closed during school to prevent students from leaving campus.

·        Students have no lockers.

·        Five breathalyzers are used to monitor students at special events such as dances.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY AGREES

While the methods currently in place to curtail alcohol use on campus may not be as effective as surveillance cameras, they nevertheless demonstrate the district’s commitment to make the best use of existing resources. The most recent data from the CHKS show that although 25% of Scotts Valley 9th graders and 36% of 11th graders have used alcohol in the past month, only 5% of 9th graders and 1% of 11th graders report using alcohol on school property during that time. The district intends to continue to aggressively monitor and deter student alcohol and other drug use on campus.


13.  County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Services personnel indicated that when high-risk youth who use alcohol are suspended or expelled they receive minimal prevention services. Therefore the County has implemented alternatives to suspension and expulsion that have reaped more favorable results. For example, the Seven Challenges program introduced in Santa Cruz City Schools is a reduction-of-suspension option that allows students an early return to the classroom by participation in the program. The program keeps students attending school and engaged in academic work. In addition, the district can claim average daily attendance funding for those students rather than lose the funding when students are suspended.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY DISAGREES

As stated in the response to Findings #8 and #9 above, Scotts Valley High does have a program that provides prevention services to reduce at-risk behaviors that might lead to suspensions and expulsions, as well as an intervention program for students suspended for alcohol or other drug use. This program, Assessment. Information. Management (AIM), is provided by Youth Services. AIM is an eight-week program similar to the Seven Challenges program mentioned above that teaches student about abuse, addiction and dependence, and increases their awareness of the physical, emotional and social risks and consequences of using alcohol and drugs. Additional information about the program is attached (Attachment A, pages 25 and 26 of this report).  SVUSD does not provide an “in-house suspension” option similar to that provided by the County to the Santa Cruz School District due to lack of resources and the low rate of student suspensions compared to other districts in the county. The high school has instituted other county programs, however, including Teen Peer Court and Real DUI Court in School (including an evening Town Hall Community meeting). Students have participated individually or as an entire student body, as appropriate to the activity.


14.  SVHS students who have been suspended for alcohol or drug use can meet with a certified counselor two days a week for individual sessions and after-school group sessions. The counselor is only required to see students who have been suspended. All other counseling is voluntary on the students part. The Scotts Valley Rotary Club sponsors the counseling program.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – DISAGREES

Students who have been suspended on drug-related charges MUST attend the

Rotary Club sponsored sessions offered by the Youth Services counselor. Other students MAY attend the sessions through parents, staff or self referral.


15.  The elementary schools no longer have a district-hired counselor. The position was eliminated as part of a budget reduction during the 2007-2008 school year. Administrators and staff have assumed many of the duties of the counselor and each elementary school has an intern from John F. Kennedy University to provide counseling for twelve students each week. Site administrators believe having a counselor is important because it is easier for students to speak honestly to a third party, rather than to teachers or the principal.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY AGREES

Counselors provide important services to students and are provided and funded by the district as described above. Site administrators believe having a counselor is important not necessarily “because it is easier for students to speak honestly to a third party” but because counselors have specialized training to meet severe social/emotional needs and have more time to spend with the students in a counseling capacity than do administrators or classroom teachers.


16.  SVHS administrators stated that they have not implemented peer counseling and conflict resolution programs that engage students in problem solving and decision making.


Response: Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY AGREES

Instruction on strategies for positive social relationships and conflict resolution are part of the curriculum throughout the grade levels; specific lessons are part of the Too Good For Drugs curriculum. Additional peer counseling training has not been provided at the secondary sites in part because of limited resources.


17.  The SVUSD leaves the implementation of alcohol and drug programs primarily to site administration and as a result, programs offered vary widely throughout the district. The suspension/expulsion policy is one of the few district-wide strategies to address alcohol and drug use among students. Per district officials, other priorities such as student achievement, special education, and budgetary challenges take precedence over the development of prevention and intervention programs.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – DISAGREES

SVUSD provides a district-wide alcohol and drug abuse prevention program, as described above. Suspension and expulsion are a necessary component to ensure the safety of all students and promote a campus environment conducive to learning. The district recognizes that preventing alcohol and drug use is itself a critical element in advancing student achievement. While the district does face unprecedented budgetary challenges, it continues to demonstrate its commitment to alcohol and other drug prevention and intervention.


18.  SVUSD elementary and middle schools have a variety of programs in place to address alcohol and drug use. The activities are based at schools and include programs that address self esteem, empowerment, resilience, learning styles, and conflict resolution. The district-adopted curriculum Too Good for Drugs is used at all levels.


No Response Required


19.  The high school offers a ninth -grade health class that addresses drug and alcohol issues. The course incorporates the Too Good for Drugs curriculum and other resources provided by the teacher. Too Good for Drugs has three core components: one curriculum for ninth and tenth- grade students, another for eleventh and twelfth-grade students, and staff development for educators.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – AGREES


20.  County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program, the United Way, and Santa Cruz County Office of Education have a variety of programs available to districts throughout the county to assist with curbing teen alcohol use. The County has actively solicited districts to participate in evidence-based programs, many of which are offered through grant funds. Programs include: Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol, Seven Challenges, Responsible Alcohol Merchant Awards, Friday Night Live, Project CURB, Teen Peer Court and Town Hall Meetings.


No Response Required


21.  Santa Cruz City Schools district is currently implementing the Seven Challenges program at Santa Cruz High School and is expanding the program to all other high schools in the district next year.


No Response Required


22.  Districts throughout the county have the opportunity to participate in the Together for Youth Collaborative.


No Response Required


23.  The Scotts Valley Police Department provides Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) to the elementary, middle and high school students in SVUSD. The program is taught by a police officer and provides a series of classroom lessons that teach student how to resist peer pressure and live productive, drug-free and violence-free lives. In addition, the police department sponsors Red Ribbon Week held the last week of October. The Red Ribbon Week campaign asks students to pledge a drug free life through drug education and prevention activities.


Response:  Scotts Valley Police Department – PARTIALLY AGREES

The Scotts Valley Police Department provides D.A.R.E. instruction to Elementary and Middle School Students, but not high school students.  The Scotts Valley Police Department does provide a Lieutenant who teaches a Regional Occupation Program (R.O.P.) criminal justice class at Scotts Valley High School.


24.  At the time of the interviews, high school administrators and staff members were unfamiliar with programs and services within the County that assist with prevention and intervention of alcohol and drug use among students. Since the Grand Jury’s interview with the administration at Scotts Valley High School (SVHS), two DUI sentencing hearings were held on campus.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – PARTIALLY AGREES

The staff were not fully aware of all programs available through county agencies; however, staff are familiar with, and make use of, many programs available through outside agencies. Staff have contacted agencies noted in the Grand Jury report to request information about resources available to the district. In addition to the two

DUI sentencing hearings, which were scheduled prior to the Grand Jury interview, a Town Hall meeting was held for parents on the subject of teen alcohol abuse in cooperation with law enforcement and other non-profit agencies. Students participate in Peer Court and Friday Night Live activities.


25.  San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District recently held a town hall meeting for parents about teen alcohol abuse on February 26, 2009. County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program sponsored the event.


No Response Required


26.  A Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge, the Mayor of Scotts Valley, the Chief of Police of Scotts Valley, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program, and approximately fifteen parents, students, and staff attended a Town Hall meeting on April 28, 2009 at SVHS.           


No Response Required


27.  Student leaders facilitated the town hall meeting and presented recent student responses on the Scotts Valley Youth Survey administered in April 2009 at SVHS. Highlights from the study indicate the following:

·        52.1% of youth ages 14-18 get access to alcohol fairly easily.

·        46.9% get alcohol from friends over 21.

·        31.6% get alcohol from home without parental knowledge.

·        56.2% drink alcohol at parties without parent/adults in the home.

·        44.7% believe alcohol helps them feel comfortable in social situations.

·        41.5% state alcohol is used to relieve boredom.

·        38% state alcohol makes it easier to deal with stress or to relax.


No Response Required



1.      Although SVUSD is not responsible for student drinking and the social problems connected with alcohol, students in the district would benefit greatly if chief officials of SVUSD would champion the areas of prevention and intervention of alcohol and drug usage among teens. By acknowledging the problem and joining forces with other agencies, the district could give students tools to curb life-threatening teen drinking.

2.      The Student Wellness policy addresses the letter of the law by focusing on nutrition and physical activity. However, the policy does not address other health issues such as alcohol abuse that threaten the wellness of students.

3.      SVUSD has a board policy on alcohol and other drugs that clearly defines the parameters for a comprehensive plan for prevention and intervention. However, the district has not coordinated the development of the plan as outlined in the policy.

4.      The district’s use of suspension and expulsion as a primary intervention for student alcohol use is ineffective and does not provide enough support for students to change behaviors and make healthy decisions. The zero-tolerance policy does not solve the problem of alcohol abuse among the students in Scotts Valley and does not have long-term impact on prevention. More positive approaches to prevention are being utilized in the county, including the Seven Challenges program in Santa Cruz City Schools which is gaining popularity and is a win-win for districts and students.

5.      SVHS has implemented very few prevention and intervention programs to educate students on the dangers of alcohol and drug use.

6.      The School Resource Officer provided by the police department was a valuable asset to the high school campus.

7.      Elementary and middle school administrators in SVUSD have appropriately addressed the needs of students and introduced programs to deal with the many facets of student wellness.

8.      Despite efforts to use other resources at the elementary level to fill in for a district-hired counselor, there continues to be a void. Interventions with troubled students would be enhanced by having a staff counselor.

9.      High school staff members who work directly with students during health classes and after alcohol and drug violations are familiar with the pressures that students face with reference to alcohol and drug usage. Although they are on the front line of working with students, they are not familiar with the CHKS responses for Scotts Valley students and they are not part of a school-coordinated team to plan and implement programs to prevent alcohol and drug abuse.

10.  SVHS tenth through twelfth grade students would benefit from the Too Good for Drugs curriculum.

11.  Student resourcefulness and leadership could be tapped by instituting problem-solving programs such as peer counseling and conflict resolution.

12.  SVUSD and SVHS personnel have been reluctant to participate in county-offered programs and activities.


1.      SVUSD officials should provide leadership, direction, and support to schools, parents, students, and community to launch a united effort aimed at reducing the life-threatening behaviors associated with teen drinking.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED

As demonstrated in the responses above, the district has taken the lead in coordinating support from law enforcement, non-profit agencies and the business community to respond to this community-wide problem.


2.      SVUSD should develop a better understanding of the reliability and relevance of CHKS information. In addition, an analysis of the county, state, and national trends would add a broader perspective from which to view the magnitude of the teen drinking problem in the district. CHKS results from county organizations should be available for review by teachers, counselors, parents, and students.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED

The district disagrees that it lacks “understanding of the reliability and relevance of the CHKS information.” District personnel have worked with the County

Office of Education to implement the survey and plan for county-wide analysis and press conferences to increase public awareness of the key findings. Administrators review district-level CHKS data, discuss it with staff, use the data when developing the site safety plans, and provide instruction and appropriate interventions to lessen risky student behaviors, including use of alcohol. This includes a comparison to county and state data, as provided in the reports received from WestEd, Ind. SVUSD was the first school district in Santa Cruz County to share the CHKS results in public with the Board of Trustees. CHKS results continue to be presented to the public at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board following the receipt of the aggregated data. Data are presented by principals to their site staffs and are a basis for development of each site’s school safety plan and, as such, are reviewed by each site’s School Site Council made up of parents, staff and students.


3.      The student wellness policy in SVUSD should be expanded to include other health-related issues such as intervention and prevention of alcohol and drug use among Scotts Valley students.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – WILL NOT BE IMPLEMENTED

“The intervention and prevention of alcohol and drug use among Scotts Valley students” is already thoroughly addressed in Board Policy 5131.6 (a-d) Alcohol and Other Drugs and accompanying Administrative Regulations. The Student Wellness Policy BP 5030 specifically cites BP 5131.6 as an essential component. The district follows the policy recommendations of the California School Boards Association by adopting the two policies separately, as do most school districts in the state.


4.      The SVUSD Board of Education should acknowledge the alcohol problem among teens and prioritize the development of a comprehensive plan as stipulated in Board Policy and Regulations 5131 (a-d) Alcohol and Other Drugs. The plan should incorporate proven evidence-based strategies that provide assistance to students with alcohol and drug problems. A coalition of school staff, parents, students, and outside agencies should be organized to develop and monitor the comprehensive plan.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED

The district has repeatedly acknowledged that alcohol use among teens is a serious problem, that it is the role of the district to have a district-wide program to address this, and that data on effectiveness of programs and interventions should be regularly reviewed. The district maintains a comprehensive array of coordinated, evidence-based services and involves the entire school community in planning and review. As directed in BP 5131.6, the district uses a scientifically based prevention curriculum, Too Good for Drugs, which has been recognized as a model program by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This program is supplemented by instruction throughout the grades in decision making and resiliency skills. Students are made aware of district and school site expectations for students’ healthful behaviors through such means as student handbooks and rules, discussions in classrooms at the beginning of each school year, and assemblies throughout the year. Discussion by parents, staff, students and community members occur in various ways at each school site, including by groups of staff and community members in development of annual improvement goals for site safety plans and Single Plans for Student Achievement. Intervention is provided at each site through district counseling programs, supplemented by more intensive counseling when necessary by a Youth Service counselor.


Comparison of the 2007 CHKS data with 2009 CHKS data (percent of Scotts Valley High students compared to national percentages) suggest that the district programs are effective in some areas, although not in all, in reducing risky student alcohol behaviors.



9th Grade 2007

9th Grade 2009

11th Grade 2007

11th Grade 2009










Ever drink









Drink alcohol in
past 30 days?









Ever been drunk?









Ever drunk/high
at school?









Believe frequent
use of alcohol is










Interestingly, the outcomes of the survey are generally positive in most alcohol-related areas surveyed for students who are currently in Grade 11 at Scotts Valley High; they are less positive for incoming 9th graders, indicating that perhaps more attention needs to be paid at the middle school level rather than at the high school level, as suggested by the Grand Jury.


5.      SVUSD should work with Scotts Valley Police Department to reinstate the School Resource Officer to the high school campus when budgetary restrictions allow.



AGREES - This has not been implemented, but will be in the future. The Scotts Valley Police Department and Scotts Valley Unified School District are both committed to reinstating a School Resource Officer (SRO) at the high school as soon as staffing and budgets allow.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – WILL BE IMPLEMENTED IN THE FUTURE

The School Resource Officer is vacant not because of “budgetary restrictions,” but because the Scotts Valley Police Department (SVPD) is temporarily understaffed. It is the intent of the district and the SVPD to reinstate the position when conditions allow. The district continues to enjoy an excellent partnership with the SVPD. The officers provide a regular positive presence on district campuses, are always available to site personnel and students when needed, provide Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs at school sites, support drug abuse resistance assemblies, and support Red Ribbon Week on district campuses.


6.      SVUSD should have a suspension reduction policy linked to intervention programs to reduce the number of students suspended for alcohol use and to engage students in a common-sense approach to addressing alcohol and drug issues.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED

In its 2001-02 Report, the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury found that “Despite the state-mandated ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, school officials have not been able to provide a drug-free environment for students” (2001-2002 Santa Cruz County Grand

Jury Final Report, “Substance Abuse in Santa Cruz County High Schools: Consequences and Responsibility,” Conclusion 2). The Grand Jury recommended that “Santa Cruz County high school administrations should explore more effective and realistic ways to enforce the state-mandated ‘zero-tolerance’ policy regarding drugs on campus” (“Substance Abuse,” Recommendation 2). While the district lacks the internal and external resources to provide a suspension alternatives program, its existing counseling intervention program is specifically designed to decrease continued and accelerated alcohol and other drug use by students that would result in additional suspensions and expulsions. Current district policy accomplishes the goal of ensuring campus safety without resulting in a disproportionately high rate of student suspensions and expulsions. According to 2004-2008 data from the California Department of Education Safe and Healthy Kids Program Office, Scotts Valley students represented approximately 7.2% of the total county enrollment, but make up only 3.1% of the total number of suspensions for violence and drug-related offenses and 0.6% of expulsions for violence and drug-related offenses.






percentage of






the County






























Four Year







The district has taken a proactive stance to prevent drug use and abuse, and to intervene quickly and positively. As the data above indicate, suspensions and expulsions are low relative to other districts in the county in part because of the district’s prevention and intervention programs.


7.      SVUSD should find innovative ways to expand counseling services at the elementary level.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – HAS BEEN PARTIALLY IMPLEMENTED

When funding was cut back last year, the district developed a partnership with JFK University to provide district-funded counseling interns for the elementary schools. The district continues to investigate options, and is severely restricted by the lack of resources.


8.      SVUSD and SVHS should utilize county and outside agency resources that assist students with alcohol and other drug prevention and intervention.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – HAS BEEN PARTIALLY IMPLEMENTED

The district has taken advantage of resources such as Youth Services counseling, the DUI Court in School program, and Friday Night Live student activities. In addition, the district has worked with the City of Scotts Valley, which adopted a Social Host Ordinance in November, 2008, and the Scotts Valley Police Department to support prevention and intervention services. In addition to district-supported counseling services, the Scotts Valley Rotary Club provides funding to maintain intervention counseling for students at risk of drug use and abuse. The district has taken steps to learn more about county resources and to implement them when possible and appropriate to meet identified needs. The district is currently participating in a North County initiative called Reduction of Alcohol Abuse Program (RAAP), the purpose of which is to obtain grant funding for additional counseling services to reduce youth alcohol abuse through effective prevention and early intervention programs.


9.      All staff members who teach or counsel students regarding alcohol prevention should be part of the planning team that addresses prevention and intervention solutions. The many resources provided through county agencies should be available for use by staff.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – REQUIRES FURTHER ANALYSIS

The district agrees with the recommendation. Reduced staffing and funding have limited additions we can make to curriculum and services at this time. The district and high school administration are in the process of investigating county agency resources to see what would be reasonable for our schools to use.


10.  SVHS should incorporate the Too Good for Drugs program into the core curriculum for tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – WILL NOT BE IMPLEMENTED

While this might be an appropriate recommendation if time were available, the need to focus on State Standards in all the core courses and to meet the mandates of the International Baccalaureate curriculum leave little or no time to teach additional lessons or programs. Instead, teachers incorporate the tenets of drug abuse prevention curriculum when appropriate in physical education classes, science, history and English.


11.  SVHS should consider offering more health classes especially for eleventh and twelfth grade students to bridge learning with life experiences.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – WILL NOT BE IMPLEMENTED

Because of severe budget restrictions, many current courses at the high school level are averaging between 35 and 40 students. To provide additional elective courses in this financial climate would raise class sizes in required courses and is neither realistic nor advisable.


12.  SVHS should involve students in self-help strategies such as peer counseling and conflict resolution, as well as countywide programs such as Friday Night Live and the Together for Youth collaborative.


Response:  Scotts Valley Unified School District – REQUIRES FURTHER ANALYSIS

Staff is currently investigating the availability of community resources and will implement those that are available and appropriate.























1.      The Grand Jury commends the Scotts Valley Unified School District elementary and middle school administrators for addressing student issues by developing effective strategies and programs to assist students.

2.      Scotts Valley Police Department is commended for championing the issues of teen alcohol and drug use and for providing consistent community leadership in prevention and intervention awareness programs.

3.      The Grand Jury commends County of Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program for working with other agencies and school districts to develop and implement a variety of programs that decrease the use of alcohol by teens.


Responses Required      Note:  The Scotts Valley Unified School District, the Scotts Valley Board of Education and the Scotts Valley High School consolidated their responses, and their responses are indicated in all cases as responses by the Scotts Valley Unified School District.




Respond Within / Respond By

Scotts Valley Unified School District

6 - 9, 11, 13,

15, 17

1 – 8

90 Days

October 1, 2009

Scotts Valley Board

of Education

7 - 9, 11, 13, 17

1 – 8

90 Days

October 1, 2009

Scotts Valley

High School

5, 12, 13, 16, 19, 24

8 – 12

90 Days

October 1, 2009

Scotts Valley Police Department

10, 11, 23


90 Days

October 1, 2009


Web Sites

California Department of Education:,asp,asp


Scotts Valley Unified School District Officials

District Administrators

Board Members

Food Service Management

School Administrators and Staff

City of Scotts Valley Police Officials

County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators

Santa Cruz County Office of Education Administration

United Way of Santa Cruz County Officials

Newspaper Articles

Aptos Times Article:

“Safe Schools/Healthy Students,” December 1, 2008

Press-Banner Articles:

“SV school board candidates address communication, teacher retention,” October 17, 2008

“Your help needed to stop teen drinking,” January 30, 2009

“School trustee ready to listen,” January 30, 2009

Dunton takes administrative post,” February 13, 2009

“SLV teen drinking, drug use discussed,” March 6, 2009

The Post Articles:

“A Letter to Scotts Valley Parents,” January 21-February 2, 2009

Santa Cruz Sentinel Articles:

“Trustees OK bonuses despite special-ed funding concerns,” October 29, 2008

“Home is where the effort to stop teen drinking is,” November 6, 2008

“Safe Ride program gives teens a lift,” November 13, 2008

“District seeks to revamp school food service,” December 17, 2008

         “Teachers angered by administrative hire amid possible layoffs,” February 21, 2009

“Town Hall Meetings,” February 26, 2009

“Students see DUI consequences firsthand,” March 25, 2009

Scotts Valley Times Articles:

School Board Leadership Issues Take Center Stage,” October 1, 2008

“SVUSD Superintendent Silver Sets Her Sights on 2009,” January 1, 2009


Document Binder provided by SVUSD, October 23, 2008

Board policies and administrative regulations related to student wellness, nutrition, and physical education

Categorical program plans and documents such as Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) and Tobacco-Use Prevention Education (TUPE) that establish district performance indicators to reduce at-risk behaviors

Two years of California Physical Fitness Tests

Two years of California Healthy Kids Survey Results

Composition and minutes from the local student wellness committee for the past two years

Summary of district programs and practices that address student needs and promote student wellness

Curriculum addressing student wellness

Verification of federal, state, and district funding sources used to implement student wellness programs and/or activities

SVUSD, Scotts Valley High School WASC Self-Study Report 2007.

Santa Cruz County

Healthy Santa Cruz County, 2008

      Health Services Agency Drug and Alcohol Program Division

Resource Referral Directory

Social Host Ordinance November 27. 2007

Santa Cruz County Alcohol and Drug Program Prevention Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives. September 2008

Office of Education, Student Support Services. 2008-2009 Annual Report to the Community

California Department of Education:

Getting Results, Developing Safe and Healthy Kids, Update 3: Alcohol, Tobacco, Other Drugs, and Violence Prevention: Research Update, Healthy Kids Program Office, 2002

California Healthy Kids Survey for Scotts Valley Unified Key Findings and Technical Report for grades 5, 7, 9, and 11, Spring 2004 and 2007.

      Healthy Children Ready to Learn, January 24, 2005

      School Nutrition . . . By Design!, Nutrition Services Division, March 14, 2006

      Taking Action for Healthy School Environments, 2006

California School Board Association and California Project Lean, Successful Students, 2005

Governor’s Interagency Coordinating Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, Strategic Plan to Reduce Adolescent and Young Adult Binge Drinking in California. Sacramento, California, May 2004

Imperial County Schools Interagency Steering Committee, Social Host Ordinance

Project CURB Policy Brief, Adult Provision & Accountability for Underage Drinking: The Case for Santa Cruz County Social Host Ordinance. November 2007

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Facts About Alcohol and Adolescent Health. 2004

University of Minnesota, Alcohol Epidemiology Program, Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking: A Guide to Action for Communities Office of the Surgeon General, 2007

U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, School Health Index. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2002

 Youth Leadership Institute, Welcome to Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA). 2006



Attachment A






Assessment.  Information.  Management




In an effort to serve and support our students and families, a drug & alcohol intervention program was established at SV High School in 2007.  This program was suggested and available, and is now required for students caught using or in possession of drugs or alcohol on campus or at school functions.  Additionally, the group is open to students for self-referral or on juvenile probation with Santa Cruz or Scotts Valley drug and alcohol diversion programs.  Moreover, any SV High School parents who want their child to learn about addiction and relationship to drugs and alcohol are welcome as well.


The program format consists of eight one-hour group education/ process series in addition to an individualized substance abuse assessment and individual educational goal planning for each adolescent.  Groups meet once a week.  Learning objectives are the following: (l)  understanding the fundamental concepts of abuse, addiction, and dependence (2) awareness of the physical, emotional and social risks and consequences of using alcohol and drugs.  The curriculum is designed to increase teens' ability to accurately self-assess their patterns of substance usage and the life problems they cause.


Additionally, counselor meets with parents prior to group beginning as well as each student individually for two meetings as follows:

1st session - (1) substance abuse assessment (2) individual educational goal planning to define student's goals towards making positive life changes/harm reduction


2nd session - Upon completion of group to (l) identify progress towards individual goals (2) identify further need for services and/or support.

Week 1:

Introductions ~ Introduce classmate: Confidentiality. Goals. Rules. Structure. "How did you get here?" Hand - outs: Group activity - "Continuum of Use" -- designed to identity/define addiction and phases of drug/alcohol use. Choose goal for 8-week group. WHAT IS ADDICTION?



Week 2:

Check-in's: Handouts.  "What's good to you about D & A"? List individually on hand-out;

members list positives etc. Education / hand out's Presentation - (1) Alcohol's effects on the body and mind (2) Statistics and facts Counselor led group discussion designed to identify negative experiences when using alcohol regarding alcohol in body/ effects-how it works. Video # 1, #2.



Week 3:

Check -in's. Handouts.  "What's bad about D & A?" Educational / hand -out's regarding M/J in body/ effects-how it works.  Differences between nicotine and marijuana. Students share personal experiences & points of view regarding addiction.  Discussion.  Video #3. Group discussion - identifying consequences (legal, social, health, academic) of marijuana and nicotine use


Week 4:

Check-in's. "What is "Cycle of Addiction?" Handout's - intoxication, abuse, dependence/

tolerance - withdrawal.  Video #4.  Coping mechanisms.  Alternative ways of coping. Presentation -  Identifying increased risk of STD infection and drug/alcohol use.  STD facts. Q & A Educational forum allowing students to ask specific topic related questions.  Discussion.


Week 5:

Check-in'sHandout's - thinking about where life is heading scale- honest with self / others.

Video #5. Impact on family/ friends/ school etc.  Presentation - risk factors (genetic, age, social, environmental)


Week 6:

Check-in'sGuest speaker or Video #6, #7, Brain imaging- chemistry - how D/A work in brain/ reward center activity in adolescents.  Discussion/ questions.


Week 7:

Check-in's.  Drug "Jeopardy" psychoeducation game to assess knowledge and make connections from previous group education/ experience.  Discussion.  All D/A handout.  Discussion/ questions.


Week 8:

Check-in's20 Questions handout, Discussion.  What did the group do/ not do for you?  Address initial goals.  Video #8 - denial, discussion.  Check-in with focus on progress and/or awareness gained as result of group.  Re-examine continuum of use. Group discussion - maintaining positive goals after completing group series.  Summary for each member.  Closing.  Post test survey.