n Crime and Delinquency recently released the results of its biannual statewide survey on students’ behavior, attitudes and knowledge of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and violence.
The Pennsylvania Youth Survey, which gathered data anonymously from Central Bucks School District students in grades eight, 10 and 12, in all five middle schools and all three high schools, informed school administrators, state agency directors and legislators of trends critical to health and wellness.
The survey also assessed risk factors for substance use and violence, as well as protective factors that guard against them.
In 2017, about 80 percent of students in the Central Bucks School District participated in the survey.
Abram Lucabaugh, acting superintendent of secondary schools and Lisa Corr, guidance coordinator at Central Bucks High School West on Sept. 25 presented the results of the 2017 survey to the school board.
“Our children are our future. This survey gives us a glimpse into their daily lives, and suggests things we can do to promote their health, safety and general well-being,” Lucabaugh said. “The healthier and safer our children are, the more successful they will be in school and the brighter their futures – and the future of our county – will be,” Corr added.
The Central Bucks results show students’ strengths as:
• Decline in use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
• Slight decline in high school alcohol use.
• No increase in marijuana use.
• More than eight of every 10 students are involved in pro-social activities.
• Extremely low rates of heroin use.
Areas that need improvement include:
• Vaping is increasing among youths, and many of them are unsure of what they are vaping.
• Alcohol continues to be the most used substance. More than 10 percent of seniors report being drunk or high while at school.
• Prescription-narcotic use is higher than the state average.
“This is important information. The community needs to hear this, parents need to hear this. Together, we can direct resources to where they need to go with these survey findings,” school board Vice President John Gamble said.
Central Bucks youths report strong family attachment and pro-social involvement, as well as a strong belief in “the moral order,” factors that protect them against engaging in risky behaviors.
The highest risk factors include youths not feeling bonded to their neighborhoods, and large numbers them reporting permissive parental attitudes toward drug and alcohol use. Also of concern is an increase in symptoms of depression in county students.
The Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) is a biennial survey of youth in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades. The PAYS asks questions about students’ attitudes, knowledge and behaviors concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs (ATOD), violence, depression, and other problem behaviors. The survey also collects information about risk factors which are the conditions that increase the likelihood that a child will develop problem behavior later in life, and it also collects information about protective factors – people or conditions in a community that can buffer a youth from risk.