Student Risk Behavior Survey to Be Administered in Grades 6-12

Just before Thanksgiving, the school district will be participating in a regional effort with 5 other local towns  to collect baseline data about the supports and challenges facing our youth in grades 6-12.  We are fortunate to be participating with the towns of Amesbury, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury and Newburyport on  a multi-year grant from the Tower Foundation to build  positive youth development in our young people.

The goal of this grant is to empower youth and build networks within each community and across the region that helps decrease engagement in risky behaviors. Studies have shown that when students grow up with many assets or supports within their lives, they are more likely to achieve and live happier lives. Conversely,  the opposite is true so the goal is to figure out what assets our students have and don’t have so that we can celebrate the successes and build up the deficits.

The first step in this first year of the grant is for each district to administer the Attitudes and Behavior Survey to students in grades 6-12.  The survey is done electronically and it is broken down into three parts:

  1. Demographic information
  2. Questions that ask students about the assets they feel that they have
  3. Questions that ask students about engagement in risk behaviors

I want to reassure parents that this  survey is completely anonymous and confidential. There will be no names and/or  identifying information that can be linked to any student.  The students can skip any questions they don’t want to answer or feel uncomfortable answering. I also want you to know that parents and/o students can completely opt out of taking the survey entirely.  There will be no pressure or hard sell placed on anyone. This survey is an attempt to collect baseline information so we can tell locally if and when our students begin and engage in risky behaviors so we can build assets to help reverse that trend. Newburyport is an excellent model for us in that they has been engaged in administering this and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey for over 10 years.  They have used the survey data to launch many city-wide initiatives that have diminished the incidents of risk behaviors by building the community assets.

Anticipating that parents might have questions about the survey, we have organized several things:

  • Surveys are available for review in all school offices and the guidance department if you want to take a look at the questions. We will try to be very flexible to make sure that anyone who wants to view the survey in advance can do so.
  • Parents are invited to attend designated meetings  just for parents who want to come and see the survey and talk about their questions with the regional coordinator Tina Los and the school administration.  Due to the fact that we imagine the greatest concern will come from parents of students in grades 6 and 7, the following meetings have been scheduled.
    • Penn Brook 6th grade- November 8th at 6:30 PM
    • Middle School – November 15th at 5:30 PM right before parent conferences . If there are parents from other grades at the MHS that want to attend on November 15th , they can feel free to attend or check out the survey in the school office.  Tina Los will be at this meeting as well and I am sure that she will be able to answer your questions.
  • We will not be able to send copies of the surveys out via e-mail for review in order to protect the integrity of the test  but the survey is available anytime from now until the test administration the  week of November 20th.
  • It is completely up to the parent to decide if they want to allow their child to take this survey and if they DO NOT want them to take it then they have to let us know in writing or their child will take this survey. This is called passive consent and  is recommended by the Search Institute who administers this survey all over the country.  There is absolutely no issue if you want to opt out of your child taking it, but you have to let us know.

Shortly,  there will be a letter coming home explaining the survey and stating much of what I have included in this post. I just wanted to give you a little heads up before you received it.  You will notice that there is sign off at the bottom of the sheet if you do not want your child to participate. The survey will take about 30 minutes to complete and again, students can answer all or part of the questions no questions asked.

We know that these surveys can be worrisome especially for parents and young children who may not know what some of the questions mean but the goal is to get baseline data of when use starts to occur and research shows that some risky behaviors are starting in elementary and middle school. We don’t expect that to be the case in Georgetown but we all agree that the fear of discomfort with the survey should not outweigh the opportunity to get valuable baseline data.  We do however respect the opinions of parents who might not agree with us which is why we are offering the opt out options with absolutely no pressure.

If you have any questions about this survey you can contact any of the following people and please plan to view the survey and/or attend the parent meetings.

Carol Jacobs  Superintendent

Peter Lucia, Principal GMHS

Julia Robinson, Guidance Director GMHS

Margaret Maher, Principal Penn Brook School

Elizabeth Carroll, Guidance Counselor Penn Brook School