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Survey says kids make good choices

Independent School District 196 got generally good news in the the results of a statewide survey of student behavior.

District prevention services coordinator Greg Clausen presented some of the results of the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey to school board members Monday. The survey, given every three years to sixth graders and high school freshmen and seniors, tracks information on alcohol and drug use, sexual activity and opinions on school environment, among other things.

In District 196, 86 percent of eligible students completed the survey in March.

The handful of results Clausen presented Monday -- pulled from more than 180 questions students answered -- showed a district where fewer students are drinking, roughly the same number are using marijuana and, at least at the high school level, more student are sexually active.

According to the survey, 6 percent of the district's sixth graders reported having a drink in the past year. That's the same result as last year, but well below the 21 percent who reported drinking on the 1995 survey. Among ninth graders, 27 percent of students reported drinking, down from 36 percent in 2007. 55.5 percent of seniors reported having at least one drink, down from 61.5 percent last year.

Alcohol use in the district also below figures for schools both statewide and in Dakota County.

"It's a good trend," Clausen said.

A change of 3 percent or more is considered significant in the survey results.

Clausen was also encouraged by the fact most sixth- and ninth graders reported getting their information about alcohol from the schools.

"That ... gives me somewhat of an indication of the degree of success of our prevention efforts," Clausen said.

The increase in reports of marijuana use were slight at the sixth- and 12th grade levels. In sixth grade, 1.5 percent of students reported using marijuana in the past year, up from 1 percent in 2007. Among seniors, 34 percent reported marijuana use, up from 33 percent in the last survey. Reports of use stayed steady at 13 percent among ninth graders.

Unauthorized use of prescription drugs was slightly above state average among seniors. In District 196 4 percent of seniors reported such use. The state average was 3 percent.

The biggest increases Clausen reported Monday were in sexual activity. Reports of sexual activity were down slightly among ninth grade boys -- from 21 percent in 2007 to 20 percent this year -- and steady among ninth grade girls at 13 percent. But among seniors, reports increased for both sexes. 55 percent of senior boys reported being sexually active, up from 46 percent in the last survey. 46 percent of senior girls said they have had sex, up from 40 percent.

Statewide, 51 percent of senior boys reported being sexually active.

"Certainly that's something we're going to have to look at, our sexual education program," Clausen said.

District 196 students generally are not worried about their safety during the school day. 93 percent of sixth graders, 95.5 percent of ninth graders and 96.5 percent of seniors said they feel safe at school.

Clausen said the district uses the results of the student survey to focus prevention efforts. He was generally happy with what he saw.

"There's a lot of questions on school climate and perception of teachers," Clausen said. "Those came out with a lot of pluses. We got strong responses, and that was good to see as well."