Dr. Jinane Annous, director of curriculum and instruction for educational services for the Hemet Unified School District, discussed the biannual California Healthy Kids Survey and the findings for the district during the board meeting at Idyllwild School last week.
While the board had a copy of the report, Annous’s presentation had much more district data than the report in the agenda packet. As a result, Board President Bill Sanborn asked her to return at the Oct. 16 meeting to answer additional questions.
The biannual survey asks students question about alcohol, tobacco, drug use, school safety, general health habits and behavior that would protect against taking risks threatening their health.
Less than 1 percent of 5th grade respondents had ever used marijuana or smokeless tobacco. Three percent have at some time tried a cigarette and nearly 20 percent have tried alcohol.
The percentages of use increase for higher grades. Seven percent of 7th grade respondents have tried cigarettes, 15 percent of 9th-graders had tried smoking,
and by 11th grade nearly 25 percent of the class had used cigarettes.
The trend of increasing usage with age was similar for alcohol and marijuana. Similar trends were seen throughout the state; the percentage of students drinking alcohol was less at HUSD than statewide.
More importantly, the use of these substances has declined significantly since 1999, especially in 7th and 9th grade. In 1999, 58 percent of the 7th-graders claimed to have tired alcohol, but the figure in 2011 was 22 percent. Similar declines were reported in 9th and 11th grade.
Several directors noted the use of alcohol that had occurred in the elementary grades and indicated they would like to discuss this situation with Annous at the next meeting.
The survey did indicate that students’ perception of school safety increased with grade level. Nevertheless, more than 20 percent of the 7th-, 9th- and 11th-grade respondents experienced some form of safety-related issue at school during the past year. For example, nearly 30 percent of 7th- and 9th-graders felt harassed for hate crime reasons during the year; while 20 percent of 11th-graders felt cyber bullied and 12 percent were afraid of being in a fight.
Nearly four percent of respondents from the three older grades claimed to have carried a gun to school and nine percent claimed to have had some weapon at school at some time during the year.
Four grades — 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th — were included in the survey. The response rate ranged from 76 percent of 9th-graders to 84 percent of 7th-graders.