Drug, Alcohol Use on the Rise Among Youth

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Eleventh-grade students at Laguna Beach High School continue to report higher alcohol and drug use than their peers in three nearby school districts, according to results of the bi-annual Healthy Kids Survey released this week.

Drug and alcohol use by LBHS juniors surveyed show a 7 percent increase compared to the 2011-2012 survey, results show. In the 2014-15 survey, 76 percent said they had used drugs and alcohoI compared to 71 percent in 2012.

In the most recent survey, 89 percent of the class of 221 students participated, compared to a 76 participation rate among 221 students in the previous survey two years earlier.

And in another highly watched measure, 16 percent of Laguna 11th graders say they’ve harbored suicidal thoughts, lower than the incidence in Irvine or Capistrano with 18 and 19 percent, respectively. Newport Mesa students reported a lower incidence, with 14 percent admitting to suicidal thoughts.

In the wake of a cluster of teen suicides in 2015, school administrators put on a suicide prevention workshop and Mission Hospital began offering group mental-health counseling for teens.

The survey funded by the state Department of Education is administered every two years in public schools to children in several grade levels to collect data about students’ well-being. The survey targets what are described as “resilience indicators” and ask a range of questions that include school connectedness; alcohol, drug and tobacco use; school safety; and physical and mental health.

The voluntary and self-reported survey is meant to be a gauge for key indicators of school climate and student well-being. Laguna’s new school Superintendent Jason Viloria could not be reached for his reaction to the latest survey results.

Some members of a community coalition with ties to Mission Hospital and the school district who have reviewed the survey results see one area where they intend to act, said coalition member and local resident Beth Garlock.

The survey revealed that about 35 percent of Laguna students say they had not talked to their parents about the risks of using drugs and alcohol in the last year. Two years ago, 29 percent of students said the topic had not come up, according to the survey results.

In an effort to remedy that, the coalition will sponsor a parent-teen course, “Date Night—An Evening with the Important Adolescent in Your Life,” to foster more open communication, Garlock said.

The four-part workshop will be offered through the city’s community services department, she said.

The survey’s release coincides with the seventh annual “Safe Schools Conference,” in Garden Grove. On the agenda are experts presenting the best practices on how to address bullying, gang intervention, truancy, dropout prevention and building a positive school climate.

“We need to heal as a nation. We need to come together,” state Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement Wednesday, July 20. “Our schools can lead the way. Every day on campuses all across this great state, teachers, law enforcement, student, parents, and community members work together and show how we can build trust and confidence in each other and promote safety.”

Among the four adjacent districts, 93 percent of Laguna students reported feeling the most safe at school, a significant shift from the 2012 survey when just 67 percent of students said they felt very safe on campus. The later survey coincided with the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Dec. 14, 2012, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

By comparison, in the most recent survey 72 percent of 11th graders feel safe in Newport-Mesa, 74 percent in Capistrano district and 85 percent reported feeling safe in Irvine.

In Laguna Beach, truancy was reported at 14 percent among 11th graders, with Irvine reporting the lowest at 6 percent.

Five percent of Laguna Beach students reported having seen a weapon on campus, compared to 3 percent in the 2012 survey. That compares to 11 percent of Capistrano students who say they’ve seen weapons at school.

 

 

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