Survey shows substance use, bullying concerns among Summit County students | SummitDaily.com
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Survey shows substance use, bullying concerns among Summit County students

In this photo from 2013, Josh DeBree, of the Eagle County Sheriff's Department, leads his dog, Luger, around five SUVs as he searches for hidden drugs in the vehicles at Battle Mountain High School. Summit High School officials recently received and discussed the results of the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which showed concerning student responses about substance use and bullying.
File photo |

IF YOU GO

What: A Q&A with school district leaders, local law enforcement and representatives with the county’s Healthy Futures Initiative about the Summit results of the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey and community response to the data

When: Thursday, Mar. 5, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Summit Middle School, 158 School Road, Frisco, CO 80443

Summit County students make healthier choices than most around the state with nutrition and physical activity, according to the results of the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. However, Summit’s kids self-reported experiences higher than average with substance use and bullying.

School leaders met Jan. 27 to talk about some of the results they found surprising and upsetting.

“At the middle school, we felt good about what we saw,” said Julie McCluskie, school district spokeswoman. “At the high school level, we are concerned with student use of alcohol and marijuana, in particular, and some of the other drugs on the report.”



In Summit, like in any community, children and teens are heavily influenced by the actions and beliefs of the adults around them, said Robin Albert, manager of Summit County Youth and Family Services.

“Our kids are exposed to that vacation, resort attitude,” she said. “It’s something we all battle in the mountains, whether it’s Vail or Aspen or Steamboat.”



On March 5, district officials will gather with local law enforcement and representatives of the county’s Healthy Futures Initiative to give parents and others an opportunity to talk about the data and how to respond.

“Our schools are a microcosm of our community,” said Drew Adkins, Summit High School principal. “Whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s behavior, whether it’s substance abuse, it takes a whole community.”

FOOD AND ACTIVITY

The survey, administered through a partnership with three state departments and the University of Colorado at Denver, was given in the fall of 2013 to 40,000 randomly selected students at about 220 middle and high schools.

About 620 Summit High School students participated, or more than three-quarters of the students in grades nine through 12. Fewer students took the survey at Summit Middle School, with about 170 participants in the seventh and eighth grades.

Summit’s students bested state averages in physical activity, and SHS reported a lower percentage of students classified as overweight or obese (14 percent) compared with the state average (19 percent).

About 68 percent of high school students participated on at least one sports team throughout the year, while that number rose to 82 percent for middle schoolers.

Summit high schoolers spent less non-school time on phones, computers and TVs than the state average, though half of middle school students spend three hours or more on screens outside of school.

Summit students also reported better food habits than rest of state. Just over half of Summit middle schoolers ate breakfast every day, and nearly two-thirds of students consumed at least one fruit and one vegetable daily.

SUBSTANCE USE

Summit High School students’ use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana were all significantly higher than state averages but nearly identical to Eagle County rates.

About 41 percent of SHS students drank in the last 30 days and roughly 24 percent binge drank (five or more drinks on the same occasion).

One in 7 students said they chewed tobacco, snuff or dip at least once in the last 30 days, and one in eight smoked tobacco in the last 30 days.

Just under half of the students, 43 percent, had tried marijuana, and about a quarter, 26 percent, had consumed marijuana in the last 30 days.

Rates of ever trying other substances, whether illegal (like cocaine and ecstasy) or legal but used without prescriptions, were also higher than state averages.

One-fifth of students had been offered drugs at school in the last 12 months.

High school administrators said they were surprised by the substance use results, as the few incidents the school has handled this year have involved drug paraphernalia but no possession.

At Summit Middle School, substance use was far less common, with about 4 percent of students reporting alcohol or marijuana use in the last 30 days and 3 percent saying they had ever consumed tobacco. Principal Joel Rivera said the school saw a handful of marijuana incidents last year and none involving alcohol.

Officials were pleased by the middle schoolers’ attitudes regarding substances, with large majorities reporting they believe regular alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use poses moderate to great risk.

At the high school too, a majority of students believed use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana risky, though the perception of risk dropped slightly from 2012 to 2013 for both alcohol (67 percent in 2013) and tobacco (84 percent) and more significantly for marijuana (from 63 percent to 51 percent).

Albert highlighted long-term trends among Summit high school students that show substance use generally declining, with the exception of a slight increase in marijuana use.

She also pointed out the dropping rate of students driving or riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking.

In 2013, 28 percent of students reported riding in a car in the previous 30 days with someone who had been drinking.

The school district didn’t have 2013 data for students who drove after consuming marijuana, but in 2010 and 2012 about 20 percent of students reported driving after smoking marijuana, higher than the rate reported in Eagle County (8 percent) and across the state (11 percent).

School officials agreed that since recreational use became legal in 2014, students believe marijuana use is less harmful and more common among their peers.

BULLYING, VIOLENCE AND WEAPONS

Bullying at Summit High School, according to the survey, is more common than at the average school in the region and in Colorado.

One in 4 SHS students reported being bullied on school property in the last 12 months compared with 1 in 5 around the state.

One-quarter of students said they’d been in a fight in the last 12 months, slightly higher than both regional and state averages, and 2 in 5 students reported ever being in fight.

One in 14 SHS students reported they did not go to school at least once in the previous 30 days because they felt they would be unsafe.

At the middle school, about one-quarter of students reported being bullied online, and about half of the students said they had been bullied on school property at least once.

The district needs to find out what students mean by bullying and fights, Rivera said. “Everything gets put under an umbrella of bullying.”

The schools should ask students if their confrontations are verbal, physical or digital and improve education about how to resolve conflicts and when to seek help, he said.

One in 5 SHS students reported carrying a weapon in the last 30 days, and McCluskie said the district is mindful that some students likely thought of their experiences hunting and camping when they answered questions about guns and knives.

Still kids’ responses about weapons were worrying, she said. About 8 percent of SHS teens reported being threatened or injured at school with a weapon compared with the state’s average of 5 percent.

WHAT NEXT

McCluskie described the survey results as a call to action.

In the next few weeks students will take a district-produced survey so schools can dig deeper into areas of concern with more updated and nuanced results.

A work group created through the county’s Healthy Futures Initiative will create strategies that focus on parent engagement, youth substance use and bullying prevention, she said.

Meanwhile district officials will continue emphasizing to students and parents the resources and initiatives already in place, including access to counseling and health professionals at school, discipline that focuses on positive behavior, bullying prevention programs, a student tobacco task force and elective classes that promote healthy choices.

School leaders also want help in addressing the survey results, McCluskie said.

“The solution lies in community partnership and how our community works together with parents, with health care professionals, with law enforcement and all of the other nonprofits and agencies that have the safety of our kids in mind,” she said. “We can’t do it without parent support.”

Albert encouraged parents to keep talking to their children through their high school years.

“Don’t stop talking to your kids,” she said. “Parents need to continue or start having these uncomfortable conservations.”

For more information about prevention programs or how to talk to kids about healthy choices, contact Robin Albert at (970) 668-9180 or RobinA@co.summit.co.us or visit SummitHealthyFutures.org.


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