Some Progress Noted with Alcohol Use, Students Feel Safe, are Volunteering
Students feel safe in their communities, truancy is on the decline, and many young people are volunteering. Those are just some of the findings of the 2009 Dane County Youth Survey announced today by County Executive Kathleen Falk and the Dane County Youth Commission.
This year’s survey was given to thousands of students in 14 Dane County school districts. Complete results of the 117 question middle and high school surveys are now available on the Dane County web page, Youth Commission link.
“These surveys are a very useful tool to find out what’s on the minds of our young people and provide guidance for local leaders on important policy decisions,” County Executive Kathleen Falk said.
Dane County, in cooperation with the Youth Commission, United Way, Public Health, and school districts, has been surveying youth in grades 7-12 periodically since 1980. The survey identifies the opinions, concerns, attitudes, behaviors and experiences of young people to help provide educators, policy-makers and funding bodies data for grant writing, program development and public policy.
“The results of this survey will be used extensively to help us understand the needs of youth in our community and to plan effectively to meet those needs,” said Deb Hobbins, Chair of the Dane County Youth Commission.
Among the positive findings that Falk highlighted:
*Students report skipping school less frequently - - with rates falling from 19% to 9% for middle school youth and from 32% to 21% for high school youth. In addition, there was a 5% drop in middle school students and 7% decline in high school students reported having thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days.
*60% of high school youth and 48% of middle school youth report volunteering in the past year. More middle and high school students also reported being involved in extracurricular activities (10% increase for middle school, 4% for high school).
*92% of high school youth and 95% of middle school youth indicate that their parents know their whereabouts—roughly the same percentage feel safe in their community. There was also a 9% decline in the number of middle school students and 14% drop in high school students reporting they had taken part in acts of vandalism.
Fewer youth also reported consuming alcohol at least once a month in the last year while binge drinking statistics (5 or more drinks at one time) also declined for both middle and high school students. However, the survey also found that nearly 40% of high school students who reported having sex, did so at least once while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“The survey showed that youth who consume alcohol on a weekly or monthly basis binge drink at a significantly higher rate, are more likely to drink and drive, and/or demonstrate other risk behaviors including sexual activity” cautioned Brian Koenig, survey administrator.
46% of students who indicated they had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days also indicated they had driven after drinking at some point.
As part of County Executive Falk’s initiative to reduce alcohol abuse, a pilot project debuted in two middle schools this year that works with students to identify early signs of alcohol abuse and intervene with them and their parents. That county-funded effort is being spearheaded by a group called Project Hugs and is being done at Sennett Middle School in Madison and River Bluff Middle School in Stoughton.
Other areas of concern in the survey noted by Falk include:
*68% of high school youth and 41% of middle school youth indicate it is easy to get alcohol
*Tobacco use has increased by 2% after years of decline
*19% of high school and 15% of middle school youth identify feeling sad or hopeless everyday for two or more weeks in a row
*72% or middle school and 74% of high school youth report witnessing physical fights on school grounds.
The Youth Commission and project partners are committed to maximizing the use and potential of this data base and will encourage more in depth analysis throughout 2009 by the various funding partners, academic entities and by the Youth Assessment Steering Committee.
The survey cost $32,800 and was funded through a partnership including the Dane County Youth Commission($8,000), Dane County Department of Human Services ($2,000), Public Health Madison & Dane County ($5,000), United Way of Dane County ($5,000) and participating school districts ($12,800).