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Students still into risky business

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Fargo,North Dakota 58102 http://www.westfargopioneer.com/sites/all/themes/westfargopioneer_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Students still into risky business
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

Things such as underage drinking and smoking are on the decline in the West Fargo School District, but many kids are still experimenting with drugs at a higher rate than normal according to a Youth Risk Behavior Study analyzed by the School Board at Monday nights meeting.

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Assistant Superintendent Louise Dardis said West Fargo students are higher in most areas where drugs are involved than the state averages when it comes to responses on the YRBS, conducted bi-annually in the District. Use is especially prevalent at the high school level, she said.

The last study was done in March of 2005, nearly one year ago. The survey is distributed to students selected, at random, by the North Dakota Department of Public

According to the survey, nearly 10 percent of the high school students, selected at random, who filled out the study said they had tried cocaine at least one time in the past month. Nearly 19 percent of those surveyed said they had smoked marijuana. Both of those responses were above the state averages of 7 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively.

As for methamphetamine, the states biggest drug problem, 6.1 percent of high school students said they had tried meth, which is way down from the survey completed in 1999, when 22 percent of students said they had tried it once in the past month.

That year is probably when the problem was at its peak. It was when it really hit this area hard, Dardis said. Its a trend well continue to watch. Where it seems to be really big is with the freshman group, and there has also been an increase at the Middle School level. So well be watching that.

Ninth-graders also proved to be risky when it came to thoughts of suicide. Nearly 13.5 percent of the high school students surveyed said they had considered it in the last 30 days, actually making plans, according to the wording of the questions on the survey. The majority of the 13.5 percent that responded yes to that question were freshmen.

Nationally, its a high-risk age, Dardis said. Thats a group that is going to get some new attention when they move out of the high school and into a ninth-grade center. There will be things that we can do.

Numbers associated with drinking have dropped since 2001, but is still a major concern statewide. Forty-three percent of high school students surveyed said they have had an alcoholic drink in the last month. And, of those surveyed, 27 percent said they have been binge drinking, or had five drinks or more in a row, at one point in the last 30 days.

Thats a scary result, Angela Korsmo, Board member, said.

Statewide, nearly half of those surveyed said theyve had a drink in the last 30 days, so West Fargo is slightly below the state average. The local number also dropped from more than 52 percent at the high school level in 2001, down to 43 percent in 2005.

Were watching the trends here as well, Dardis said. Despite what wed hoped, the seniors did not show improvement over the past few years.

A positive sign was shown with smoking, where both the high school and middle school showed a decline in smokers. The Cheney Middle School, where just 5 percent of those surveyed said they had smoked in the last 30 days, was well below the states average of 9 percent.

Were teaching them in the Life Skills classes that smoking is wrong, and it seems to be working, Dardis said. Its a gateway drug, and really opens kids up to something else in the future, so if we can stop it early, then we should continue to see the numbers fall here.

Dardis said data collected from the YRBS would be shared with advisors, teachers and administrators, and eventually with parents throughout the District in some manner.

The issues that are on the increase in West Fargo definitely bear watching, Dardis said. This survey will of course be a benchmark for next time around.

Though Dardis did not share results, one section of the study did focus on dietary trends and active behavior, a new portion of the survey. She said since this was the first year that was included in the test, theyd wait to look at results in 2007-08 for comparisons.

The validity of the study is something Board members questioned, but Dardis said the test is used nationally, and most states take the results to be factually sound. Students know the test is anonymous, meaning their answers wont be revealed to other classmates or peers.

Theres a margin for error, but its pretty minimal, Dardis said.

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