Steuben County student survey crucial for prevention programs

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Neal Simon | Categories:
Hornell, N.Y. — A student survey will assist local efforts to reduce and prevent delinquency, drug abuse and other antisocial behaviors among area school children. Hornell City schools are among the local districts planning to participate in the Steuben Prevention Coalition’s 2012 Prevention Needs Assessment Survey. The survey is designed to measure the need for prevention services among youth in the areas of substance abuse, delinquency, antisocial behavior, violence, mental health, eating disorders and sexuality. “The information the students provide can help us to take steps to reduce and prevent these problems in the Hornell City School District,” Hornell School Superintendent Doug Wyant, Jr. said in a message to district parents. Some 2,680 students in sixth-, eighth- and tenth-grade from Hornell, Prattsburgh, Avoca, Bath-Haverling, Hammondsport, Campbell-Savona and Corning-Painted Post will take the survey. The school districts will implement the survey between Feb. 27 and March 2. Officials stress that the survey is voluntary and anonymous. An alternate activity will be offered to children whose parents do not want them to participate. Students are not required to answer all the questions, only those that they want to answer. Also, the surveys will be carefully protected, and no identifying information about a participant or their school will be included. In Hornell, parents may pick up a copy of the survey at the principal’s office of their child’s school. Experts call the “Prevention Needs Assessment Survey” scientifically tested and “valid and reliable.” Developed in 2001, it has been given to over one million students in schools across the United States. “The survey is extremely important,” said Jim Bassage, prevention director of the Steuben County Council on Addiction. “The survey gives us a snapshot of what is going on with the youth in our county and in each individual community that we live.” Bassage said the survey data is crucial to school districts and drug abuse agencies. The information helps school districts pinpoint problem areas, provides councilors and mental health professionals with the documentation they need to aquire grants, and assists drug abuse prevention professionals in focusing their energies where they are needed the most. Bassage said past surveys provided very specific data about illegal drug use and abuse. “The drug of choice among local youth, according to the last two surveys, is alcohol,” Bassage said. “Marijuana is number two, followed closely by tobacco.” Armed with that data, the coalition decided to form task forces to deal with the issues of underage drinking and marijuana use, Bassage said. He noted that “hard data” gleened from the surveys has been used to bring approximately $1.5 million in grants to the county over the last couple of years. In previous years, students from all 13 school districts in Steuben County took part in the survey, according to Norm McCumiskey, Drug Free Communities coordinator. The Steuben Prevention Coalition did not receive a grant to administer the survey this year, McCumiskey said, meaning each individual district has to foot the bill if they choose to participate. “Last time there was some grant money to pay for the survey. This time there was no money,” McCumiskey said. “Some school districts just couldn’t afford to come up with the money, which is unfortunate.” The overall results of the survey will be shared throughout the county and each district that participates will receive individual data for their school.
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