School board hears results of healthy youth survey

Bainbridge’s high schoolers are smoking and drinking less, according to the results of the most recent Healthy Youth Survey.

The survey’s findings are welcome news for school administrators, who became concerned late last year when 18 Eagle Harbor and Bainbridge High students were suspended for drug or alcohol use during school or school activities, all just in the first six weeks of the 2016-2017 school year. It helped fuel concern that there could be an escalating drug problem at Bainbridge’s schools.

But Jeff McCormick, director of assessment for the district, said that according to the most recent survey, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“At the beginning of the school year we did see an increase in students who were disciplined for using illegal substances at the school level. But you see the overall reported use is still lower than the state average,” McCormick told the school board during a recent briefing on the survey results.

The survey wasn’t all good news, however. While the number of students who reported ever using substances was lower than the state average, Bainbridge seniors who had drank appeared to drink on school grounds more frequently than other seniors in the state.

Nine percent of the seniors surveyed on the island reported drinking on school property within the past 30 days, whereas 8 percent of seniors statewide reported the same.

In other survey results, Bainbridge seniors reported using marijuana on school grounds within the last 30 days half as often as other seniors across the state.

The new survey also painted a picture which would suggest that, in general, Bainbridge youth tend to drink less alcohol than their peers across the rest of the state.

Of the Bainbridge seniors that were surveyed, 56 percent had reported that they had ever drank more than a sip of alcohol in their life, compared to 64 percent of the seniors polled statewide.

There’s a caveat to that, however.

When it comes to current alcohol use, seniors on the island have been drinking more frequently than the state averages; 34 percent of Bainbridge seniors reported to have drunk a glass, can or bottle of alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 32 percent of seniors statewide.

This trend holds true for Bainbridge seniors and binge drinking, as well. Of the students from Bainbridge that were surveyed, those in grades 8 and 10 reported lower overall rates of binge drinking than the state averages.

Seniors, on the other hand, clocked in above the state average. Statewide, only 18 percent of seniors that were surveyed reported to have had five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, compared to the 19 percent of Bainbridge’s seniors who said they had.

As for marijuana, Bainbridge students in grades 8, 10 and 12 together reported having used marijuana at lower rates than students in the rest of the state. Of the seniors who had reported using marijuana in their lifetime, 26 percent had reported using it within the last 30 days, mirroring the statewide average.

McCormick said that smoking of another variety appears to be on the outs.

“Cigarette smoking continues to be low and continues to drop every survey,” he said.

McCormick also noted that vaping and electronic cigarette use appeared to be significantly lower among Bainbridge’s youth than their peers statewide.

“Vaping is just not cool on the island,” McCormick said.

Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 all reported using an e-cig or vaping in the last 30 days, less than the state averages for the same grades.

The highest use was seen among seniors; 7 percent reported vaping within the last 30 days, compared to the statewide average of 20 percent.

Overall, the survey showed a generally healthy population of youth on the island, with seniors drinking less alcohol and smoking fewer cigarettes and marijuana than was reported in the 2014 survey.