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Survey conducted at PVASD to determine student risk factors

Results from a survey that Penns Valley Area students participated in last school year will help the district determine just where it stands among risk levels with the student body.

It’s a way to not only keep up with the positives but also target the negatives.

Penns Valley Area School District is below the state average in every surveyed area except for student use of smokeless tobacco among high school seniors and use of over-the-counter drugs to get high for sixth-graders — up by 3.2 percent from the previous survey results, according to a report from the district.

The survey focused on gateway drug use such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants; prescription drug use; access and willingness to use; anti-social behavior; school climate and safety; social and emotional health; and systemic factors.

“The district ensures that all students have the opportunity to participate in school activities and feel a part of the community as a whole,” district Director of Student Support Services Holly Sawyer said when asked how administrators tackle areas of concern.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, risks can decline among students who participate in extracurricular activities.

“We sponsor community activities such as a community dodgeball game to assist in increasing this involvement, (and) the school works closely with religious leaders and community groups such as the Penns Valley Youth Center,” Sawyer said

School counselors also educate students about the risks of drugs and alcohol, and all schools in the district use schoolwide positive behavior supports as a way of acknowledging positive student actions.

The survey, called PAYS — Pennsylvania Youth Survey — is conducted at Penns Valley Area every two years to assist in developing data-driven prevention programs.

It’s sponsored by the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Education, and offered to any school or district in the commonwealth for free.

The latest results were compared to those from 2011 and 2013 — 241 students were surveyed in 2011, and 321 students were surveyed in 2013, Sawyer said.

The survey is voluntary, and last year included 353 students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades — about 25 percent of the total Penns Valley Area student body.

In the commonwealth, 216,916 students reportedly participated.

The questions are asked in four domains — community, school, family and peer/individual — to assist in determining the strengths of the community that can help students, Sawyer said.

The survey conducted in 2015 showed an increase in several areas but also some decreases.

“Our students feel connected to the school, their family and their community,” Sawyer said. “The students feel there are clear rules about their behavior from their parents and will tell their parents about difficult situations. Students feel safe in school and are involved in school activities.”

Pertaining to bullying, students reported they felt they were sometimes bullied for the way they look, however, the district has shown an increased involvement in school activities, and 91.1 percent of surveyed students said they feel safe at school — the state average is 84.1 percent, the report said.

“Overall, we really think this survey is helping us see and meet student needs,” Sawyer said at a school board meeting last month where she presented the survey results.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Survey findings

Increases

▪ Student involvement in school

▪ Marijuana use for 12th-graders: to 25.4 percent lifetime use and 11 percent in the past 30 days from when the survey was conducted

▪ Drug use among high school seniors: hallucinogens, 7.9 percent; Ecstasy, 3.2 percent; synthetic drugs, 4.8 percent

▪ Emotional health: sad and depressed, 37.3 percent; 18.3 percent reported they felt life isn’t worth it; thoughts of being a failure, 16.5 percent

▪ Student concern of running out of food: up to 8.4 percent

Decreases

▪ All prescription drugs: lifetime and 30-day use

▪ Alcohol use: 37.3 to 30.9 percent

▪ Perception of drug/alcohol harm: between 70 and 80 percent

Other stats

▪ Biggest source for alcohol is at family or religious celebrations; 39.1 percent use

▪ 83 percent not willing to try alcohol — state average is 73 percent

▪ 17 percent have access to prescription drugs — state average is 24.3 percent

▪ 26 percent of high school seniors admit to gambling — of which 15 percent accounts for the lottery — state average is 36.8 percent

▪ 42.5 percent have a low commitment to school

▪ 39.8 percent report parental attitudes favorable toward anti-social behavior

▪ 71.7 percent report positive family opportunities for pro-social involvement

▪ 70.4 percent have an attachment to their families

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