Tahoe-Truckee students boozing less, still above Calif. average, survey says | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee students boozing less, still above Calif. average, survey says

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — While Tahoe Truckee Unified School District students are reporting less alcohol use than in years past, their rate of consumption remains higher than the state average.

This is just one of the findings from the 2014 California Healthy Kids Survey, which asks students questions on substance use, physical and mental health, safety, school connectedness and learning supports.

Fifty-three percent of 11th-graders reported no alcohol use in the past 30 days — up from 48 percent from 2012 — with the state average being 67 percent for 2011-13. State data for 2014 was not available for comparison.

Sixty-seven percent of ninth-graders reported no alcohol use in the past 30 days, compared to 64 percent in 2012 and 80 percent statewide.

“What we do know is that perceived harm and peer disapproval rates for marijuana have dropped. This indicates that shifting attitudes and public opinion are impacting our youth. Marijuana use is being normalized by adults and the media.”River CoyoteTahoe Truckee Future Without Drug Dependence Coalition

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Meanwhile, seventh-graders reporting no use is slightly higher than 2012 (90 percent) and statewide (89 percent) at 91 percent.

"A number of stakeholders in the community including (Truckee Police) have worked hard since 2012 to decrease alcohol use by our youth, so I'm pleased," said Truckee Police Chief Adam McGill. "Yet, we still have a long way to go. The number of students using alcohol is still too high, so we must continue to educate our community about the public health and safety issues surrounding students using alcohol and drugs."

'WE MUST DO BETTER'

As for binge drinking — defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row — in the past 30 days, 32 percent of 11th-graders and 19 percent of ninth-graders reported doing so, compared to state averages of 22 percent and 11 percent.

Yet, binge drinking decreased among TTUSD 11th- and ninth-graders by 15 percent and 10 percent from 2012.

Despite those decreases, River Coyote, director for the Tahoe Truckee Future Without Drug Dependence Coalition, said the results are worrisome.

"This is concerning, as binge drinking is a very high risk form of drinking," she said. "(It's) much more likely to cause accidents, injuries, overdoses and alcohol dependence. We must do better."

When asked how parents would feel if students had one or two drinks nearly every day, 72 percent of ninth-graders and 59 percent of 11th-graders answered "very wrong," while 18 percent of ninth-graders and 25 percent of 11th-graders answered "wrong."

"Parents yield a tremendous amount of influence over their children," said McGill, who's been an outspoken critic over the years of alcohol abuse in the community. " … Parents play the largest role in prevention — second is the greater community at large, and what message our culture sends to young people."

'SHIFTING ATTITUDES' WITH MARIJUANA

As for marijuana use, 95 percent of seventh-graders and 77 percent of ninth-graders reported no marijuana use in the past 30 days — down by 1 percent and 2 percent from 2012, respectively.

Meanwhile, 5 percent more of 11th-graders reported no use — 74 percent (2014) vs. 69 percent (2012).

However, reported marijuana use among TTUSD 11th- and ninth-graders is still higher than the state average, with 76 percent of 11th-graders and 85 percent of ninth-graders in the state reporting no use.

Among TTUSD students, smoking marijuana occasionally was perceived to have "great" harm by 38 percent of seventh-graders, 25 percent by ninth-graders and 14 percent by 11th-graders.

On the other end of the spectrum, 19 percent of seventh-graders, 24 percent of ninth-graders and 44 percent of 11th-graders perceived no harm.

"What we do know is that perceived harm and peer disapproval rates for marijuana have dropped," Coyote said. "This indicates that shifting attitudes and public opinion are impacting our youth. Marijuana use is being normalized by adults and the media.

"The RAND report estimates that legalization of recreational marijuana will increase youth use by making marijuana seem less harmful, while making it cheaper and more affordable. A perfect storm for increasing drug use."

According to the RAND Corporation, the nonpartisan RAND Drug Policy Research Center is dedicated to providing objective analysis and research to decision-makers.

Coyote said marijuana use is harmful, having been linked to drops in IQ, reduced academic achievement, addiction and lung damage.

WORK AHEAD

As for next steps for the school district, they include sharing findings with parents, staff and community partners to invite further analysis, and to prioritize areas of needs, according to a Jan. 21 presentation Corine Harvey, executive director of student services for TTUSD, gave to the board of trustees.

"It takes a village to raise successful (youth), and one of the things that the California Healthy Kids Survey does is look at community environmental supports," she said at the board meeting.

In the past few years, TTUSD and the community has implemented several programs to address the health and wellbeing of students. They include: Alcohol Edu, high school wellness centers, parent education, What's Up? Wellness Checkup, and Second Step social skill curriculum for K-8 students district-wide.

"We are extremely grateful for the community support we have, which allows us to provide comprehensive social and emotional support programs," Harvey said in a statement. "Going forward, it is essential that we maintain these programs and allow them to really take hold while we work together to develop new community partnerships to support our youth."

Click here to read about the 2012 California Healthy Kids Survey results.

By the numbers for TTUSD students

Students reporting binge drinking in the past 30 days:

3 percent (2014) v. 3 percent (2012): seventh-graders

19 percent (2014) v. 29 percent (2012): ninth-graders

32 percent (2014) v. 47 percent (2012): 11th-graders

Students reporting no alcohol use in the past 30 days:

91 percent (2014) v. 90 percent (2012): seventh-graders

67 percent (2014) v. 64 percent (2012): ninth-graders

53 percent (2014) v. 48 percent (2012): 11th-graders

Students reporting no marijuana use in the past 30 days:

95 percent (2014) v. 96 percent (2012): seventh-graders

77 percent (2014) v. 79 percent (2012): ninth-graders

74 percent (2014) v. 69 percent (2012): 11th-graders

Source: TTUSD/California Healthy Kids Survey

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Other areas of focus

Resilience indicators — which include caring relationships, high expectations and meaningful school participation — were all factored into gauging school environment supports in the 2014 survey.

TTUSD students surveyed reporting high levels of support at school were above the state average — 60 percent of fifth-graders, 40 percent of seventh-graders, 34 percent ninth-graders and 36 percent 11th-graders.

In addition, the percentage of district students reporting such support increased from 2012 in all grades except for 11th, which decreased by 4 percent. As for physical health, TTUSD fifth-graders were above the state average in eating breakfast daily (88 percent v. 83 percent) and exercising five or more days a week (70 percent v. 66 percent).

Meanwhile, they were lower in watching two or more hours of TV or video (14 percent v. 32 percent) and in having been teased about their body (28 percent v. 34 percent).

“The good news is that the majority of our students are healthy, engaged and making good decisions,” Corine Harvey, executive director of student services for TTUSD, said in a statement. “More students are feeling connected and have caring adult relationships. Positive connections with adults throughout our schools, homes and communities are instrumental in supporting our students’ success.”

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About the survey

The California Healthy Kids Survey is the largest statewide survey of resiliency, protective factors and risk behaviors in the nation.

Across California, it has led to a better understanding of the relationship between students’ health behaviors and academic performance.

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District administers the survey every two years to fifth-, seventh-, ninth- and 11th-grade students; their identities remain anonymous and participation is voluntary. TTUSD uses the results to assess its progress in promoting youth wellbeing and success, as well as gauge how to structure socio-emotional development programs to best meet student needs.

Click here and here to view the 2014 survey results.

Sources: WestEd and TTUSD