Youth Risky Behavior Survey results ‘alarming’
Drug and Alcohol Taskforce members presented the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to the Gilford School Board Monday night and said they found certain trends and statistics to be alarming.
Gilford selectmen were also invited to sit in on the presentation, along with the town administrator and Gilford police officers.
High school nurse and taskforce member Meg Jenkins said that about 90 questions were on the survey, which targeted junior and senior GHS students. This is the third year GHS students have participated in the survey, deemed “reliable” but not 100 percent accurate.
Jenkins said she would attempt to summarize the highlights of the survey, and although tobacco use is down, it seems that drug usage, and binge drinking especially, is slowly on the rise and above state averages.
“We work hard to educate the community,” said Jenkins, who said tackling these issues should not only be a school district goal, but a community goal. “We have seen some improvements, but some trends are not where we would like to see them. It is important to know what is happening in town.”
Within the last 30 days, about 30 percent of the 439 students who filled out the survey reportedly got in a car with a person who had been drinking, a percentage above the state average, and up about 5 percent from last year, said Jenkins. She said that an increased percentage of students have also had at least one alcoholic beverage within the last 30 days, and she reminded the board and the audience that all these students are well under the drinking age.
“We tend to mirror where the state is, yet unfortunately we are on the higher end of this,” said Jenkins.
She said that binge drinking is perhaps the biggest concern, and that about 42 percent of the students who took the survey said they engaged in underage binge drinking, which constitutes as five drinks or more in a sitting.
“We are still higher than the state and Belknap County. These numbers are important,” said Jenkins. “Your children are making decisions they wouldn’t normally make (when binge drinking). This results in accidents, vandalism, and promiscuity, which can lead to health problems and alcoholism.”
Jenkins said that marijuana usage is up to 40 percent and higher than the county average, while the state average is down. Although she said she is not pleased with some of these results, she said there is “a flip side;” a large percentage of students are not engaging in these activities, or not engaging in these activities before the age of 13.
The taskforce also threw a new question into the mix this year, since prescription pill abuse has become an issue with some high school students. On waste day last year, Jenkins said about 1,800 prescription medicines were discarded of, and that kids are rummaging through medicine cabinets in their homes on a national level. She said she was also concerned with the fact that high school students are handed stronger and addicting medications, such as Vicodin, after dental surgery, when extra strength Tylenol may do the trick.
Jenkins said that sexual intercourse percentages were up as well, and higher than state and county averages.
Jenkins did have some good news for the board. She said underage alcohol related arrests are down and that the Gilford Police Department keeps this aspect under control.
“We want to look at this as a community issue. We are receptive to suggestions, and this is bigger than our buildings, our county, our state or country,” said Jenkins.
After listening to the presentation, Superintendent Paul DeMinico said these numbers may seem negative and intimidating at first, but there is still hope.
“These numbers are hard to swallow for me sometimes, but I think it is absolutely necessary to follow this,” said DeMinico. “There is good information in terms of the positive in the survey.”
DeMinico explained that years ago, during the Reagan administration, tobacco use was a severe, top concern in the country and within schools, and now it appears that numbers have gone down. He suggested that the taskforce perhaps look into how tobacco use has been dealt with throughout the school system, since it proved to be successful, and apply these same maneuvers to newer issues, such as binge drinking among high school students.