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Schools to report on substance abuse instruction

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida public school officials will be required to report to the state their methods of teaching students about substance abuse every year, under a new mandate approved by the state Board of Education on Wednesday.

From the time they enter kindergarten to the moment they graduate high school, Florida students are required to take classes on substance use and abuse, according to state law. But Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said his department needs a rule requiring schools to report their plans to the state, to ensure they are meeting the instruction mandate.

“All we are doing is requiring them to report it,” Corcoran said. “It should be an easy thing. They don’t have to come up with something new.”

Under the new rule, school districts must report their plans to the Florida Department of Education every year, and explain how they will teach students about youth substance use and abuse.

The rule will take effect this academic school year.

School districts will have to submit the information to the state by Dec. 1, and could face sanctions if they don’t comply.

Corcoran pointed to First Lady Casey DeSantis as a force behind the push.

“Ensuring Florida students understand the implications and ramifications of drug abuse will not only save lives but also help foster a healthy and productive learning environment,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement following Wednesday's board vote.

The First Lady also was involved in an effort to require that all K-12 students receive at least five hours of mental-health education each year.