School district releases findings from student survey

| 16 Nov 2017 | 05:47

    — The Warwick Valley School District surveyed 565 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 this past spring as part of the Orange County Development Survey; the survey had a 61 percent response rate.
    The findings were discussed at Monday’s School Board meeting. Among the key findings:
    Alcohol18 percent of 8th graders, 51 percent of 10th graders and 79 percent of 12th graders reported some alcohol consumption in their lifetime.
    The study found that “current usage increases with age:” 7 percent of 8th graders, 37 percent of 10th graders and 59 percent of 12th graders report drinking at present.
    Binge drinking is also an issue: 2 percent of 8th graders, 25 percent of 10th graders and 43 percent of 12th graders “acknowledge binging on alcohol at least once within a two-week period.
    The survey revealed that students seemed to “rely on their parents or people they know” in order to obtain alcohol, with the main source coming from home or someone else’s house.
    Marijuana This same survey showed 34 percent of those responding using marijuana “at some point in their lifetime.” The percentage of students who ever tried increases with age: 26 percent of respondents currently smoke pot: 3 percent of 8th graders, 26 percent of 10th graders and 41 percent of 12th graders said they currently smoke pot.
    According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the NIH – National Institutes for Health), “Chronic marijuana users can suffer from mental health issues, including panic attacks, anxiety and psychosis, problems with learning and memory, and frequent respiratory infections. Youth who begin use in adolescence risk loss of mental acuity.”
    OpiatesAdolescents’ abuse of prescription drugs often involves the use of opiates and opioids. Opioid use has increased since 2014. Prescription opiates are most commonly used.
    2 percent of respondents have used heroin in their life;
    3 percent had used prescription opiates in the past month;
    2 percent had used heroin in the past 30 days.
    Bullying About 23 percent of those responding said they had been the object of bullying in school;
    18 percent said were cyberbullied.
    However, “bullying on school property and cyberbullying appear to have decreased by about 7 percent since 2017.”
    In responseThe district is taking a multi-pronged approach to address the issue of student substance abuse, by:
    • Evaluating the scope of substance use and abuse among the student population;
    • Getting parents involved and conducting “awareness sessions;”
    • Working with the Warwick Valley Coalition – a group of “concerned parents, youth and community partners working to reduce alcohol and marijuana abuse among youth and to prevention initiation into all drug use by encouraging wise and healthy choices by all community members.”
    The Coalition meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the Warwick Valley Community (Doc Fry) Center, on 11 Hamilton Ave. in Warwick;
    • Conducting ongoing substance education and intervention
    • Engaging students in “meaningful extra-curriculars and programs beyond the school day;”
    • Establishing useful discipline codes, codes of conduct and policies regarding substances.
    Dr. Larry Washington, principal at the high school, presented the school board with an overview of the newly formed High School Coalition team.
    The team had its first meeting on Oct. 26, Washington said, and included the director of guidance, the director of the local chapter of SADD, a PE teacher, a nurse, a parent, and a local member of law enforcement.
    Washington pointed out that while there are bars and wineries and breweries in the area, there is a distinct lack of positive activities for teens. He added that the team suggested starting alternative “theme nights” for teens.
    He also noted that kids “with the most ‘juice’ (influence) in the district are the athletes,” and suggested that the district should have conversations with coaches and parents on how to approach the topic of substance abuse prevention.
    Washington added that the high school coalition would be “reaching down to the middle school,” and as part of this approach, SADD members will be talking to middle schoolers on Nov. 30 on constructive ways to deal with peer pressure.
    - Abby Wolf