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Survey finds above-average use of alcohol, tobacco in district

Staff writer

Alcohol, marijuana, and smokeless tobacco use among Marion-Florence USD 408 students is higher than county and state averages, according to a report presented Monday at the December meeting of the district Board of Education.

The Kansas Communities That Care (CTC) survey was completed by 161 USD 408 students in sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grades during the 2010-11 academic year, said Linda Ogden, executive director of Families and Communities Together.

Binge drinking, defined as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a row at least once in the month prior to the survey, was reported by 15.73 percent of students, higher than the 12.8 percent rate for Marion County and 12.73 percent for Kansas. The rate for sixth-grade students, 4.77 percent, was more than double the 2.14 percent rate for Kansas, and 25.87 percent of USD 408 10th graders reported binge drinking, compared with 16.46 percent of Marion County students and 17.19 percent for Kansas.

The results for drinking alcohol at least once in the month prior to the survey more closely reflected county and state averages, with a rate of 25.63 percent for USD 408 students versus 21.13 percent for Marion County and 24.19 percent for Kansas. Alcohol consumption by district 10th graders was 44.07 percent, significantly higher than the 27.68 percent reported for the county and 32.12 percent for the state.

“The real crime is where these kids are obtaining it,” Ogden said, noting alcohol was given to or purchased for the students by adults. Students drank primarily at home or at their friends’ homes, Ogden said.

Adult drinking behavior is a likely influence on student alcohol consumption, Ogden said. The survey indicated 63.75 percent of students personally knew at least one adult who got drunk or high in the past year, and 28.75 percent said they knew five or more adults who did. Both these rates are above the state rate, Ogden said.

“We lead by example, and it becomes more acceptable when they know adults who do that,” Ogden said.

Students are getting information about the dangers of alcohol use, Ogden said.

“Parents are talking to their kids — over 57 percent talk to them about the dangers,” Ogden said.

Ogden acknowledged the district’s substance abuse testing policy for students in extracurricular activities, but noted its limitations with regard to alcohol abuse.

“You’ve been talking about your drug test policy, but alcohol isn’t going to show up,” Ogden said, suggesting most drinking takes place at times when alcohol has sufficient time to clear the body and go undetected.

Marijuana use among 10th graders was another significant finding, with 15.26 percent of USD 408 students, exceeding the county average of 8.23 percent and state average of 13.77 percent.

Ten percent of Marion students surveyed reported using smokeless tobacco at least once in the prior month, roughly similar to the county rate of 9.25 percent, which are both higher than the 5.95 percent average for the state.

Board members did not comment on the report, but Jan Helmer questioned how the results accounted for students who might not have taken the survey seriously.

“I just know some kids like to have fun with those things,” Helmer said.

“It’s a fine-tuned scientific survey to weed out false answers,” Ogden said. “I have worked with this since 1995, and it is a valid indicator.

“You don’t look at this and say it’s not possible, you look at this and say this makes sense,” Ogden said.

Board member Sarah Cope returned to the report later in the meeting during a period for open comments.

“Marion is a great district, and we have great kids in this district, regardless of what the numbers show,” Cope said. “We should be proud of our accomplishments.”

Last modified Dec. 15, 2011

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