Communication with Parents/Family regarding Alcohol and Other Drug Harm

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About this initiative:

The University of Michigan deeply values students and parents/family as essential partners in a wide range of health and wellness issues.  

From that perspective, Parent-Family Communication Program:

  • Focuses on first-year students:
    • Because research shows that they are an at-risk population as they transition to college
    • Because of the health and safety risk inherent in alcohol and other drug (AOD) misuse
  • Contributes to the university's comprehensive approach to reduce AOD risk and harm -- see For more information
  • Aims to reduce first-year students' repeated alcohol-related incidents and interrupt possible patterns of misuse
  • Increases social support by connecting students and parents to AOD and other well-being resources as they transition into the U-M community

How this communication will occur: 

U-M will notify parents/family of first-year students under the age of 21:

  • If a student has committed an AOD violation accompanied by other serious behavior such as needing medical attention, significant property damage or driving under the influence
  • If a student has had an AOD incident that resulted in the student being transported to the hospital or jail
  • If a student has had more than one AOD-related violation of the U-M Alcohol and Other Drug policy

The AOD Parent-Family Communication Program Manager at UHS Wolverine Wellness will contact parents/family after the student has met with university staff. 

Especially for students:

It is our goal to create a culture of health and wellness so that all students can thrive. We encourage all students to keep the lines of communication open with your parents/family to best support your health and wellness on campus. You may want to talk about how you're doing in terms of personal well-being.

AOD-related harm continues to be the top public health issue on campus. For this reason, federal law allows universities to contact parents when students under 21 have alcohol or other drug incidents on campus.

Many universities, including most other Big 10 universities, contact parents/family as one component of a comprehensive program to address alcohol and other drug-related harm.

If you were involved in an AOD policy violation, we encourage you to be proactive in your own communication with your parents/family. Want ideas about talking with your parents/family? Please feel free to contact the Program Manager (see below).

Especially for parents/family:

If you are informed that your student was involved in a AOD-related incident, we offer these suggestions for talking with your student:

  • Listen – You may learn a lot by listening to what your student has to say.
  • Discuss accountability for the incident -- Who will be responsible for paying fines and costs associated with the ambulance and hospital visit, if any?
  • Get and share facts and resources -- You can play a vital role in providing accurate information and framing next steps.  See Resources for Alcohol and Other Drugs.
  • Help your student plan to navigate future situations  – What would they do differently next time?
  • If talking with your student is challenging, consider asking about personal Well-being to help learn about your student's well-being and acclimation to campus.
  • Make your expectations known about AOD. Your feelings, values and priorities can be influential in shaping your student's future decisions regarding use.
  • Be a good role model – Your student notices what you do.

See also the U-M Family Matters newsletter article, How You Can Help Influence Your Student's Alcohol Use

Regarding privacy:

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs release of and access to student education records. Section 952 clarified that institutions of higher education are allowed (but not required) to notify parents if a student under the age of 21 at the time of notification commits a disciplinary violation involving alcohol or a controlled substance. 

For more information: