For the week of May 19, 1999  thru May 25, 1999  

Survey: risky student behavior in county?

Sponsors say kids need more attention


By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer

There’s good and bad news about Blaine County youth coming out of a survey of 1,500 middle and high school students in public and private schools conducted last year.

The good news is that students are better understood.

But the bad news is that Blaine County students score lower in developmental assets than the national average, even compared to students in nearby communities.

"The survey provides a snapshot of how we’re doing as a community," said Connie Perry, survey coordinator and a member of the Blaine County Youth Partnership, sponsor of the study.

"Most of the kids fall into the zero to 20 ‘asset’ category, which is pretty low."

The partnership, a coalition of parents, students, counselors, educators, clergy and law enforcement, is concerned about risk taking behavior that could lead to drug use and unsafe sex.

The survey, designed by the Minnesota-based Research Institute, was designed to inventory "assets" of students to measure their health and well-being by looking at personal values that’re considered crucial, regardless of community size, region of the country, gender, family economics, or race.

"Assets" are grouped as either internal (the young person’s own values) and external (networks of support, opportunities and people that stimulate and nurture positive development).

Authors of the survey contend that the more "assets," the more likely a student will succeed in school and maintain good health.

The fewer "assets," then the more likely problems with drug use, violence and unsafe sex.

Blaine County youth scored lower in assets than the national average and below any neighboring communities such as Twin Falls that have participated in the survey.

The partnership will use survey data to change the way the community thinks about youth or, as Perry said, to "change our culture."

Some of the findings relate to risky behavior, such as drug-use and sex:

  • 50 percent of high school students reported using marijuana in the last 12 months.

  • 70 percent of seniors reported using alcohol at least once in the last month.

  • 44 percent of 6th through 12th graders reported they had ridden once or more in the last 12 months with a driver who had been drinking.

  • 50 percent of seniors reported having sexual intercourse three or more times.

  • 52 percent of high school students reported they had used alcohol three or more times in the last 30 days or gotten drunk once or more in the last two weeks.

  • 60 percent of 6th through 12th graders reported attending one or more parties in the last year where other teens were drinking.

Said Perry, "We want to get at what’s causing the problem in the first place."

What is causing the problems with risky behaviors, the survey suggests, is a lack of adult role models, lack of community involvement with youth and lack of parent involvement.

  • Only 21 percent of 6th through 12th graders reported the community values its youth.

  • Only 26 percent reported they had adult role models.

  • Only 34 percent reported that their parents are involved in their schooling.

The partnership is trying to disseminate the message in the community of the importance of placing more value on youth and acting to "engage" with youth.

Some of the recent plans for action include an ice hockey rink in southern Blaine County, after-school homework clubs with adult volunteers, a coffee house where youth can interact with adults, and the Hailey Youth Advisory Council, a group of middle and high school students to advise the Hailey City Council on youth issues.

"If we truly believe that our youth are our most valuable resources, then we need to start paying attention to them," Perry said. "If we put as much time and energy into our kids as we do salmon, we could make a big difference."

 

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