Youth Options: Report gauges Colusa County attitudes
For a complete report on Colusa County schools or more information on the California Healthy Kids Survey, contact Cindi Hudgins at 458-0330 or go to chks.wested.org/about.
The California Healthy Kids Survey is the largest statewide survey of resiliency, protective factors, and risk behaviors in the nation.
Across California, the survey has led to a better understanding of the relationship between students' health behaviors and academic performance. The survey is administered every other year to most California fifth-, seventh-, ninth- and 11th-grade students.
The students are asked questions on topics such as feeling connected and safe at school, drug, alcohol and tobacco use, violence, and gangs. Because this information is collected in a standard format each time, it is administered, we can compare our results not only to previous years in our community but also to other communities and the state as a whole.
One question often asked is "How accurate are the responses?" It is important to note that research has provided strong evidence that data from adolescents on self-report questionnaires such as the Health Kids survey are valid, providing that certain criteria are met.
Some examples of those criteria are student anonymity and alternate forms of asking the same question. These and other criteria have continually shown that responses provided in this format are accurate.
In fall 2011, Colusa County schools administered the California Healthy Kids Survey for the fifth time since 2003. In this most recent survey, we asked seventh-, ninth-, and 11th-graders questions about school, violence, and high risk behaviors.
Listed below are just a few of the questions and responses from the survey:
When asked about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs:
• 13 percent of seventh-graders, 29 percent of ninth-graders and 47 percent of 11th-graders reported that they have consumed one full drink of alcohol four or more times;
• 34 percent of ninth-graders reported having used marijuana two or more times;
• 13 percent of 11th-graders report current use of smokeless tobacco, up 2 percent from 2009 and 7 percent higher than the state average;
• 47 percent of seventh-graders, 46 percent of ninth-graders, and 41 percent of 11th-graders reported they do not talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol with their parents or guardians.
When asked about safety and violence:
• 69 percent of seventh-graders, 52 percent of ninth-graders and 51 percent of 11th-graders report feeling safe or very safe at school, while 24 percent of seventh -graders, 40 percent of ninth-graders, and 37 percent of 11th-graders report feel neither safe or unsafe at school.
• Of the 60 percent of 11th graders who have been or are currently in a romantic relationship, 10 percent reported they had experienced physical violence by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months
When asked about gang involvement:
• 7 percent of seventh-graders, 10 percent of ninth-graders, and 11 percent of 11th-graders reported current gang involvement
When asked the question "Are there gang members at your school?"
• 20 percent of all students surveyed reported "a lot," 32 percent of all students surveyed reported "some," and 18 percent of all students surveyed reported "a few."
So now that we have the answers, what do we do with the information?
First, we talk about it. We talk to our peers, the students, parents, and the community. The number-one prevention technique in a parent's arsenal is to talk with your kids —and listen to them —about high-risk behaviors and let them know what you think and how you feel about them.
Yet, according to this survey, almost 50 percent of students surveyed say they do not have these conversations with parents or guardians.
Secondly, we use this information when determining how to spend our prevention dollars and what areas we most need to focus our attention. In addition to the schools, this information is also used by other area agencies when writing grants or developing programs for youth.
Talk about the information in this article to your friends, peers and kids and learn more about these issues. This community can help to make a safe and healthy an environment in which our Colusa County kids will thrive.
Kay Spurgeon is the Colusa County superintendent of schools, and founder of the Youth Options organization.