School survey shows less smoking, more bullying

May 17, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Issaquah School District students are showing some promising — and some not so promising — trends on the 2010 Healthy Youth Survey.

The district has given the survey every other October to Washington students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12, since 2004. The survey asks students to answer more than 100 questions about their lives, including their physical and emotional health, community and school climate, and the health risks they take.

In the past, district students have not answered questions about sexual health and experiences. At the May 11 Issaquah School Board meeting, board members promised to look into the matter this fall for the 2012 survey.

Each survey has a 3 percent margin of error, meaning any percentage change less than 3 percent is not significant. After analyzing the results, the district, state and nonprofit organizations will use the data to start conversations and programs helping youths. The Issaquah Community Network plans to use the data to apply for a federal grant that would help students live healthy lives in the community, network Executive Director Barbara de Michele said.

Drug use

In one of the most promising trends, fewer students report having smoked cigarettes. In 2004, 18 percent of seniors and 8 percent of sophomores reported smoking a cigarette in the past 30 days. In 2010, both of those percentages decreased, with 13 percent of seniors and 6 percent of sophomores admitting to lighting up a cigarette in the past month.

“What I can say is that, as a school community, but also as a nation, we’ve made good progress in smoking,” Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said. “Smoking rates have gone down.”

The statistics for alcohol, marijuana and substance use at school were more constant.

In 2010, 8 percent of eighth-graders, 27 percent of sophomores and 43 percent of seniors report having drank alcohol in the past 30 days. Those numbers are virtually the same as 2004, except for eighth-graders, which dropped from 12 percent reporting they had consumed alcohol.

Marijuana use has also plateaued. In 2010, 7 percent of eighth-graders, 21 percent of sophomores and 44 percent of seniors reported having smoked marijuana in the past 30 days, much like their 2004 counterparts.

Alcohol use at school also stayed essentially the same, with 6 percent of eighth-graders, 7 percent of sophomores and 18 percent of seniors reporting they were drunk at school this past year.

Illegal drug use has fallen dramatically. In 2004, 5 percent of eighth-graders, 11 percent of sophomores and 23 percent of seniors reported having used illegal drugs in the past 30 days. In 2010, those percentages dropped to 2 percent of eighth-graders, 4 percent of sophomores and 6 percent of seniors.

With all of the talk about drugs, the 2010 survey asked students whether their school had staff members who helped students who were using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. Both eighth-grade and sophomore positive responses were higher than the state average, but the seniors’ response was remarkably lower, with only 55 percent of seniors saying yes, compared to the state’s 64 percent average.

An increase in bullying and TV use

Bullying has also increased across grade levels, likely due to increased technology, such as texting and Facebook. In 2004, 23 percent of sixth-graders, 25 percent of eighth-graders, 22 percent of sophomores and 13 percent of seniors reported they were bullied in the past 30 days. In 2010, those percentages increased to 26 percent of sixth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, 25 percent of sophomores and 16 percent of seniors reporting they had been bullied, with percentages on par with the state average.

Even with the increase in bullying, there is no increase in correlation in depression or suicidal thoughts, District Director of Career and Counseling Services Dennis Wright said.

Excessive TV watching has also increased. In 2004, 25 percent of eighth-graders 17 percent of sophomores and 18 percent of seniors reported having watched three or more hours of TV on an average school day. In 2010, those percentages jumped to 40 percent of eighth-graders, 42 percent of sophomores and 48 percent of seniors watching that much TV on a school night.

Student safety and involvement

Students still feel overwhelmingly safe at school, with 93 percent of sixth-graders, 91 percent of eighth-graders, 92 percent of sophomores and 92 percent of seniors reporting they feel safe at school. However, fewer students report opportunities for school involvement. In 2004, 96 percent of eighth-graders, 92 percent of sophomores and 93 percent of seniors reported they had a lot of chances for involvement in school activities. In 2010, those percentages dropped to 71 percent of eighth-graders, 68 percent of sophomores and 71 percent of seniors saying yes.

On the Web

View Issaquah School District’s Healthy Youth Survey results at www.issaquah.wednet.edu. Go to “Family Resources,” click on “Student Health,” and select “Healthy Youth Survey 2010.”

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