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TIPS FOR REACHING OUT TO SCHOOLS

Thank you for bringing greater awareness of fentapills to your community by reaching out to your school district to ask them to roll out some new drug education.

Schools are busy places with many competing priorities. They have limited resources to do everything that is asked of them. They may not be set up to take quick action on a real-time problem that they did not factor into their routine planning and multi-year curriculum design processes. Further, officials can often be wary of political or hidden agendas. That’s why it’s important to consider this a partnership: first educating yourself and then educating the school district so that they can in turn educate the community of parents and students. In this effort we all have the same goal: to serve and protect our precious children through education. Keeping in mind this idea of partnership, we’ve devised the PAIR approach. Every school district and community are different, so use this approach as a general guide… and do what works for you. You do not need to follow all of these steps, but we hope you get some good ideas from this!

If you have questions about this process, or suggestions on how to improve it, contact jennifer@songforcharlie.org. Please also email us if you have success in getting this material into your local schools—we want to know how you are doing!

 

Good luck & thank you for helping to spread awareness!

The PAIR Approach

Plan, find Allies, Identify what you want, & Request action.

PLAN

Other Parents


Of course there is power in numbers, so if you have friends and neighbors who will actively join you in this work, great! The school district may prefer to have one lead partner from your group though.




Safety/Security


Many districts/schools have school resource officers and some have centralized safety/security personnel. These people should really understand the risks and know firsthand about what kids in your schools are experiencing. Hopefully they already know about Fentapills, but if not, they are prime candidate to educate and find an ally. If your angle is about awareness and education, they likely will be very supportive. If you are talking to them about school procedures, discipline, investigations, etc they will likely be more wary.




Head of curriculum


There is probably an administrator of curriculum and instruction in your district, and depending on the size of the district they may have a large staff including someone responsible for health instruction that could include drug dangers.




Local agencies


Reach out to law enforcement, public health offices, and local addiction/mental health agencies. At law enforcement, there may be a public affairs officer and someone whose job is specifically aligned with schools. In public health and addiction/mental health agencies you may find all the resources are focused on addiction which may or may not meet your needs. These people can add credibility to your request and they really help understand the landscape of players and priorities that exist.




Teacher/Principal


These are your natural allies and it definitely makes sense to talk to them, but they may have no interest, time, or ability to effect things at a larger level. If they do, great! If not, they can still point you in the right direction and make connections.




Intro


It’s crucial to have allies in this work. One parent making some noise from the outside will probably not be enough to create action. Think about and identify specifically who these people are. It can make sense to have general conversations/emails with these people as part of this work to ‘feel them out’, get ideas, and strengthen the allyship along the way.




School District Communications/Public Affairs Officer


This person can be an especially good ally because they will be plugged into the latest local news, have a good connection with the superintendent, and think about all of the district’s activities broadly. Especially if you are thinking about a public awareness campaign or community conversation, this is a good person to know.




School Board


In most districts this is an elected official. They work for you! Most of the time, these people are active listeners and want to understand your concerns. They can be very effective in helping you drive action. This is also a political role and their response may be influenced by their perceptions of the issue. So, if you do engage your school board member, plan to be educated and focused on the topic and what you are looking for.




Superintendent


Ultimately this person will need to approve any actions taken. Therefore they can be your very best ally and activator, but also can be a blocker if they are not hearing support from their staff for this work. Any early conversations with the Superintendent might be best framed in general terms and with a request for who would be the right people to work with in the school district.





ALLY IDENTIFICATION

Other Parents


Of course there is power in numbers, so if you have friends and neighbors who will actively join you in this work, great! The school district may prefer to have one lead partner from your group though.




Safety/Security


Many districts/schools have school resource officers and some have centralized safety/security personnel. These people should really understand the risks and know firsthand about what kids in your schools are experiencing. Hopefully they already know about Fentapills, but if not, they are prime candidate to educate and find an ally. If your angle is about awareness and education, they likely will be very supportive. If you are talking to them about school procedures, discipline, investigations, etc they will likely be more wary.




Head of curriculum


There is probably an administrator of curriculum and instruction in your district, and depending on the size of the district they may have a large staff including someone responsible for health instruction that could include drug dangers.




Local agencies


Reach out to law enforcement, public health offices, and local addiction/mental health agencies. At law enforcement, there may be a public affairs officer and someone whose job is specifically aligned with schools. In public health and addiction/mental health agencies you may find all the resources are focused on addiction which may or may not meet your needs. These people can add credibility to your request and they really help understand the landscape of players and priorities that exist.




Teacher/Principal


These are your natural allies and it definitely makes sense to talk to them, but they may have no interest, time, or ability to effect things at a larger level. If they do, great! If not, they can still point you in the right direction and make connections.




Intro


It’s crucial to have allies in this work. One parent making some noise from the outside will probably not be enough to create action. Think about and identify specifically who these people are. It can make sense to have general conversations/emails with these people as part of this work to ‘feel them out’, get ideas, and strengthen the allyship along the way.




School District Communications/Public Affairs Officer


This person can be an especially good ally because they will be plugged into the latest local news, have a good connection with the superintendent, and think about all of the district’s activities broadly. Especially if you are thinking about a public awareness campaign or community conversation, this is a good person to know.




School Board


In most districts this is an elected official. They work for you! Most of the time, these people are active listeners and want to understand your concerns. They can be very effective in helping you drive action. This is also a political role and their response may be influenced by their perceptions of the issue. So, if you do engage your school board member, plan to be educated and focused on the topic and what you are looking for.




Superintendent


Ultimately this person will need to approve any actions taken. Therefore they can be your very best ally and activator, but also can be a blocker if they are not hearing support from their staff for this work. Any early conversations with the Superintendent might be best framed in general terms and with a request for who would be the right people to work with in the school district.





IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT

Instruction


Getting messages in front of kids directly is probably the most impactful thing that can happen. Are you envisioning classroom instruction for students? Will the instruction cover fentapills, social media dangers, stress management, etc? The developed curriculum from Beaverton School District is focused on fentapills and is free and ‘ready to go’ for schools including lesson plans, classroom aids, etc.




Community conversation


Would you like to broadly educate parents and teachers? Do you see that as a Zoom seminar with other experts? Are you willing to share your story in this forum? Is there an existing drug awareness night that you could participate in? The BSD Fake & Fatal website has a YouTube recording of the 90 minute Community Conversation in English and Spanish.




Awareness campaign


Are you looking for the school to provide public service announcements on their website/social media , include information in parent newsletters, create fliers for students to hand out at lunch? Who is the target of this campaign? Has the school district done something like this before that you could use as a model? Is one of the other agencies you may have reached out to, such as law enforcement or public health, better positioned to do public awareness? If there is a way for the awareness campaign to include students talking to students in their own language, there is a greater chance the message will be heard by them.




Intro


This is a big topic and there are many actions and potential avenues to make an impact. Before you make a formal request, think about and identify what you are really after. New legislation, rallies, or geo-political topics like Chinese fentanyl, Mexican cartels, or social media regulation aren’t going anywhere with schools. Here are some possible ideas for things to request of your schools based on the work done with Beaverton School District where all three of these things happened:





REQUEST AND RESPOND

Write it down


A well written letter that includes some of the information gathered in the planning stage is important. Make what you’re asking for clear but leave it open ended enough for the district to know you are not ‘all or nothing’. Even if they agree with you, they may not have the resources to do everything you are asking for. Be sure to make clear you are looking for a response, not just sending information. Emphasize where you have common goals in protecting and educating children. Try to keep it as apolitical as possible and focused on what the school district sees as within their responsibility. Pick carefully who you are asking to do what so it ends up on the right desk.




Include your allies


Have your allies help you craft your letter or review and revise it. Copy selected allies when you send it and/or let them know you have done that. Decide if you want your allies to also follow up on your request and show their support; if so, specifically ask them to do that.




Offer your help


If you have the bandwidth and desire to help, be sure to offer that and be explicit as you can about how you can help.




Keep at it


Follow up, be willing to modify and revise your request, and ask again if needed.





Now that you’ve done gathered resources, found allies, and focused on what you really want to have happen... it’s time to act.




Thank them


Show your appreciation for having been listened to, especially if you are able to get results. Share your gratitude publicly on social media, with the news, at a school board meeting, etc.




Keep being a multiplier


Let Song for Charlie know about your results. The more we can advertise that schools are taking action, the more motivated other schools will be to also take action… they won’t want to be left behind! Share what your district has done with other parents and families so they can learn from your work.





  • Typically the decisions about curriculum are done at a district level, not at a school level. When requesting action, make sure you are contacting the decision makers- perhaps the superintendent or head of curriculum. While a principal or health teacher can be an ally, they in most cases will not be able to make a decision for you.
     

  • Letters should be a balance of emotion and facts. Be concise when sharing your story, and spend most of your letter providing data supporting how fentanyl is affecting your community and describing what you are asking for.
     

  • Be careful of your wording. Discussing drugs can be a trigger for many people, in a good way or bad. We suggest using some of the following wording in order to most effectively gain empathy from the reader.

Tips for Writing Your Letter

Download Example Letter