The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 2, 2007


CCHS Principal finds risky behavior survey results disturbing

Before presenting data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to the Regional School Committee, Principal Art Dulong reminded the audience that students ages 13 through 18 are going through tremendous hormonal changes. Also, this is a risk survey. It is not going to have complimentary data. "Kids are going to make mistakesOur quest is to keep them as safe as possible."

Alcohol and drugs

"Concord is a model community where schools, parents, businesses and clergy work together. Still, 60% of seniors had a [alcoholic] drink last month. Also, 30% reported they went to parties in people's homes where parents and alcohol were present, where alcohol was allowed [by the parents]." Dulong finds this disturbing. Trying to find something positive, he added that 60% of the total CCHS population didn't have a drink in the last month. The report also states that 23% of respondents have ridden in a vehicle driven by a minor who had been drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Drugs sold on campus and sexual activity were other concerns. Dulong stated, "20% of students say they have been offered drugs on school property. And 27% reported having had sex." Dulong said, "We're all struggling with the same thingAll the towns around us look the same [statistically]."

The number of weapons

With the audience mindful of recent events at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, Dulong said the number of weapons reportedly coming to school was disturbing. He said, "I have trouble believing 1.6% of kids carried a gun to school on at least one occasion 30 days prior to when they filled out the survey [last spring]. That's 18 kids!" The survey states 6% of students carried some kind of weapon such as a gun, knife or club to school in the 30 days prior to the survey. Dulong wondered if some students considered their hockey sticks a weapon for this survey. He knew of only one time over the last several years when a weapon was seen on campus. Social workers heard about it quickly. "We never have had any injuries," concluded Dulong.

Contact via the Internet

The report stated that 20% of respondents have given information about themselves over the Internet to someone they never met. Twelve percent report having met someone in person with whom they initially had contact over the Internet. "There was very little variation by grade and no variation by gender."

Smoking and related risky behaviors

Dulong recommended continued support of health programs and to keep in touch with the Legislature. "It is absolutely important that the Legislature keep spending money on ads to keep kids from smoking." The report shows 28.5% of students have tried smoking and 13% have smoked a cigarette in the last 30 days.

Dulong worries about related risky behaviors. Ninety percent of those who reported smoking also reported recently drinking. "If one is willing to take a risk with one's health, one is willing to take other risks with one's health. Once you take one risk, it's a lot easier to take more."

Suicide and self-injury

Suicide was also discussed, with almost 8% reporting they have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months. The incidence of this behavior was roughly 7% for grades 9 and 10, peaking in grade 11 at 10.4%, and 7.6% in grade 12. Dulong attributed this to growing uncertainty about one's future from freshman through junior year. He felt there was a decline in senior year because kids know where they're going.

The report stated that almost 13% of respondents have hurt themselves on purpose by cutting, burning or bruising, on at least one occasion in the last year. RSC member Michael Fitzgerald asked, "How does one combat this issue?" Concord Middle School Principal Arthur Unobskey replied, "We need to engage with kids as directly as possible. They need to have conversations with different adults in their lives. We are not blind to it." Kathy Bowen, the Concord K-12 health education coordinator/director, said parents are more willing to discuss these issues than they were four years ago. "Parents have to talk with their kids."

Dulong thanked all those who put the survey together. Emerson Hospital has given time and funding to seven towns in this effort since 1998.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito