October 8, 2012

Study tracks problem behavior by students


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Alcohol and tobacco use dropped, but marijuana smoking rose in a new study of student behavior conducted in Essex County schools.

All school districts in the county participated in the Preventive Needs Assessment Survey of students in grades 7 through 12.

The survey, sponsored by the Essex County Youth Bureau and coordinated by the County Prevention Team of Ticonderoga, saw 76 percent of high-school students in the county participating.

“It’s a snapshot of student behaviors and risk factors,” Prevention Team Executive Director Douglas Terbeek said. “It’s helpful information.”


The survey should not be used to bash students, parents or schools, he said.

“(It’s) a look at the county profile, some highlights of student behaviors, positive as well as not-so-positive behaviors.”

The publicly released information is not broken down by school district, he said, because schools would not participate if they thought they were going to be singled out for problem behaviors.

“The schools have their own individual profile report, which is a subset of this data,” Terbeek said.

Some schools are using the data for planning purposes, he said.


One part of the study compared the year 2008 to 2012.

It showed alcohol use by seventh-graders was 38 percent in 2008 and 24 percent now. For 12th-grade students, alcohol use went from 66 to 53 percent.

In 12th grade, those who had tried smoking dropped from 32 to 27 percent. It declined from 11 to 10 percent for those who’d smoked in the last 30 days.

“The good news is the numbers are going down,” Terbeek said.


One number that went up is 12th-graders’ use of marijuana, from 27 to 29 percent.

Marijuana use also went up for seventh-graders, from 3 to 6 percent.

“It is not some sort of definitive measure of what is going on, (but) it tells us and suggests communities where we might want to explore further,” Prevention Coordinator Mac MacDevitt said.

The alcohol data is especially good to have, he said, because “most people who drink start when they’re young.”

 The alcohol industry markets to youth and tries to set brand loyalty, he said.

He said alcohol misuse drives up taxes, probation costs, traffic crashes, injuries, welfare, high-risk sex and fetal-alcohol syndrome.

“Kids are not trying to buy alcohol at stores,” Terbeek said. “That’s a very small percentage. But they are trying to find adults to buy it for them.”


Control questions in the survey weeded out students who were not truthful, MacDevitt said.

“Are they being honest? Are they making something up? This is their perception, their outlook, their reported behaviors and what they perceive in their communities. It’s actually pretty good data.”

Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said the information derived from the survey is so important it should be sent home to all parents.

It is now available on Essex County’s website:

“This is a community-wide problem,” MacDevitt said. “The idea is to work on these factors to make alcohol use less desirable.”

Crown Point Central School Superintendent Shari Brannock said her school uses the Preventive Needs Assessment Survey to tailor programs to students.

“Doug Terbeek is coming to address the Board of Education, and we’ll talk about what we need to do. The information shows us where we need to concentrate efforts.”

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Preventive Needs Assessment Survey