Franklin — Survey results show that Franklin Public Schools middle school and high school students have used alcohol and tobacco less than past state averages for their peers, but concerns about bullying remain high.
The 2012-13 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, organized by the state Department of Public Instruction, asks students to anonymously answer personal questions related to alcohol and drug use, bullying, traffic safety and sexual behavior.
Conducted every two years, the survey helps school districts monitor behavioral problems in order to find pertinent solutions. DPI collects the data and releases an executive summary of the findings early the following year.
Because the executive summary for the 2012-13 survey will not be available until January, the Franklin school district compared its numbers to the state averages of the 2011 survey.
Substance abuse down
The 2013 survey found that the percentage of Franklin students who reported binge drinking alcohol within 30 days of the survey had dropped from 12.3 percent in 2011 to 12.1 percent, well below the 2012 state average of 24 percent. The percentage of Forest Park Middle School students who reported binge drinking dropped from 2.2 percent in 2011 to 1.5 percent.
High school students who reported smoking a cigarette within the 30 days prior the survey decreased from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent, well below the 2011 state average of 15 percent.
"Franklin High School reported alcohol and tobacco use is significantly lower than the state average," said Franklin school psychologist Amy Dwyer, who presented the survey results to the School Board on Oct. 23. "That's awesome, that's great, but they did indicate a slightly more elevated identification of cyber-bullying than the state average."
Bullying a concern
The state average for students who reported ever being bullied through an electronic medium was 16.6 percent in 2011. The 2013 survey found that 27.2 percent of Franklin High School students reported being cyber-bullied at least once.
"There can be various reasons for that (percentage)," Dwyer said. "One, I'm wondering, is (if) we're making students more aware of their behavior because we're addressing it more openly."
Franklin High School students also reported an increase in traditional bullying for 2013. In 2011, 53.2 percent of students agreed that harassment and bullying were problems within their school; that number increased by more than 5 percentage points in 2013, remaining significantly higher than the state average at 47 percent.
Forest Park Middle School, however, saw a decrease in the number of students who felt bullying was a problem. The survey found 72.5 percent of students believed bullying a problem in 2011. In 2013, only 51.5 percent reported concerns.
"That number is still a little high, but we're working on that and we're glad to see it's going down," Dwyer said.
The middle school also saw a slight decrease in the number of students who said they have considered suicide — from 18 percent in 2011 to 17 percent this year.
"We've been implementing the Signs of Suicide curriculum, which is a DPI-sponsored program, and we're glad to see its showing signs of working," Dwyer said.
But Franklin High School students reported an increase in suicidal thoughts, moving from 12.4 percent in 2011 to 14.9 percent in 2013. Both schools remained higher than the 2011 state average of 14 percent for students who have considered suicide.
To address issues of substance abuse and bullying, Dwyer emphasized strategies already implemented in the school program, such as the high school's substance-free Peers United organization and the recognition of World Day of Bullying Prevention. In addition to the Signs of Suicide, Forest Park Middle School also uses the Be One Stand-up Student program.
Both schools celebrate anti-bullying days monthly, when students wear blue shirts to promote bully awareness.
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