Healthy Kids Survey show Taft junior high students seem healthy, happy

(Editor's note: This story first appeared in the May 15 print edition of the Taft Midway Driller)
Although parents of Taft’s junior high school students may think their kids walk on the wild side, a recent survey actually paints them as pretty tame.
That was the view of Lincoln Junior High School Principal Brandi Swearengin at last week’s meeting of the Taft City School District Board of Education as she reported results of the Healthy Kids Survey.
“Parents perceive that their kids are much more wild than they are,” she said.  “This gives us a snapshot of what our students are experiencing in junior high.”
The survey sampled student opinions on school connectedness, caring relationships, use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, and violence and safety.
In a nutshell, the survey shows Lincoln students:
Perceive school as a safe place
Are aware they have high expectations at school and home
Have adults in their lives in and out of school they feel connected to
Are monitored by an adult regularly and are speaking with an adult about drugs and alcohol
Believe that their peers are involved in more than they actually are
Overwhelmingly disapprove of the use of drugs and alcohol
Eighty-seven percent believe they have caring adult relationships at school and 90 percent feel that way about the community.
“I thought that was impressive,” Swearengin said.  “We’ve really worked hard on building these relationships.”
Nine in 10 say they have high expectations at school and in the community.
Two-thirds believe there are opportunities for meaningful participation at school.  That number rises to 85 percent in the broader community.
Use of alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, pills and cigarettes ranked pretty low.
“This area is always scary,” Swearengin said.  “You always hear that junior high is where things always go wrong.”
Most students indicated they had never tried alcohol, pot, inhalants, pills or cigarettes.  Actual usage was highest with alcohol (17 percent had used it at least once, 10 percent 2, 4 or more times) and cigarettes (15 percent had smoked at least once).  Pot (7 percent), inhalants (6 percent) and pills (4 percent) ranked lowest,
Nearly 40 percent reported they had been targeted by rumors or lies and a fourth said they had been afraid of being beaten up.
Only 23 percent reported being in a fight.
“There has been some fighting, but not a lot,” Swearengin said.  “That has actually decreased this year.”
Few had ever carried a gun or any other weapon in the last year, but 27 percent reported having had sad or hopeless feelings in the past year.
Seventeen percent reported being the target of cyberbullying.
Swearengin said the survey did underscore areas that need improvement:
Continuing to increase meaningful student connections at school
Emphasizing communication and student/teacher relationships
Increasing community awareness and involvement
Increasing awareness and knowledge of the dangers of using alcohol and other substances
Continuing to work on bullying prevention and fostering an overall positive school climate
“We’re working at putting things in place for more activities,” Swearengin said.
Participation in the survey was good, she added.
“A hundred and eighty-nine student participated out of a total of 210,” she said.
“We plan on doing this annually,” said Supt. Ron Bryant.