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Durham Region educators learning about cannabis use, destigmatization

Click to play video: 'Durham Region schools target cannabis and substance use education, destigmatization' Durham Region schools target cannabis and substance use education, destigmatization
Cannabis and other substance use can be a difficult subject for teachers to discuss with students. A group of Durham Region school boards are hoping to change that through improved staff training and by working to reduce the stigma. Albert Delitala reports – Oct 21, 2021

Training designed to destigmatize the use of cannabis and other substances is coming to three school boards in Durham Region.

A new training guide, Understanding Substance Use, Stigma and Cannabis Vaping, is being rolled out to select educators within the Durham District School Board (DDSB), the Durham Catholic District School Board, and the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.

The boards partnered with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) to design the initiative.

“It’s not just conversations about substance use,” said Dan Hogan, the substance use and violence prevention coordinator at the DDSB. It’s about building trust with students so they will talk with teachers about it, he added.

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To that end, the training looks at substance use, the risks linked to substance use disorders, as well as de-stigmatizing the conversations that can get in the way of students seeking help.

“What they want are facts,” explained Chandni Sondagar from the CCSA. “They don’t want judgment; they don’t want your opinion.”

On Thursday morning at Oshawa’s O’Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Grade 12 student Darren Gordon told Global News it’s often easier to talk with friends about cannabis and other substances, instead of teachers.

“It’s definitely a subject that they’ll hesitate to talk about” he said. “Some will talk about it but some — they just don’t want to talk about it.”

Other students also reacted positively to the training plan.

“Knowing they’re there for you and they’re willing to hear you out, gives you the opportunity you need to get what’s off your mind,” said Jaidan Rutherford, also in Grade 12.

Shea Boice, who is in Grade 11, said teachers would likely be a valuable resource for many students at the school. It will help them open up more, learn about cannabis, and what it’s doing to their brain, he said.

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The training modules are being rolled out during virtual professional development sessions, said Dan Hogan of the DDSB. The aim is for all staff to receive at least some of the relevant training by the end of the year.

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