A recent “School Snapshot” survey showed students in Colorado’s Summit School District struggle with bullying and substance abuse at a higher rate than the state average, and administrators aren’t taking the news lightly.
Results from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showed 55.2 percent of students at Summit Middle School reported being bullied, just over 11 percent higher than the statewide average, while 20.8 percent of high-schoolers said the same, compared to 18.1 percent statewide, the Summit Daily reports.
High school students also used alcohol, vaporizer or e-cigarettes, marijuana and regular cigarettes at higher rates than students statewide.
“We take these results seriously, and we don’t want to see our kids taking illegal substances, alcohol or marijuana underage,” Julie McCluskie, spokeswoman for the district, told the Summit Daily.
McCluskie said the district is already taking a variety of steps to address the issues, such as including bullying in its “Second Step” social and emotional curriculum, new school counselors and social workers, and an anonymous Safe2Tell reporting system, which provides an avenue for students with concerns about suicide, bullying, violence or drugs.
“Over the last five years we’ve seen a rise in the number of students who express stress, anxiety and depression,” McCluskie said. “There’s also been an increase in students threatening self-harm and suicide. That’s been the focus for us the last few years. Our numbers are lower than state averages, but it’s always concerning if kids have those feelings. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure no child feels lost, alone or does anything to harm themselves.”
The survey provided some hints that the efforts are making an impact.
The percentages of students who felt sad or helpless for two weeks in a row or more, and those who considered or attempted suicide are all below the statewide average. The survey also revealed 89 percent of the Summit middle school students, and 87 percent of high school students, said they had someone to talk to when they felt helpless, the Summit Daily reports.
"The school district takes our responsibility to keep kids safe and healthy very seriously, but we can't do it alone," said McCluskie. "When our parents are engaging not only with the school work, but also being supportive of social and emotional challenges the kids are facing, those kids will be more successful and safe…there are concerns for us in this data. What's important now is that we respond to that as a school district and as a community. Nothing is more important."
Summit administrators are already establishing new practices through curriculum, staffing, and methods of communicating with students that will compel action and change.
Sociologist James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, wrote in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:
What we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person. But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a broader look at teen drug use with the 2017 “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.”
The survey of eighth, 10th and 12th grade students in hundreds of schools across the country shows “past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana holding steady at the lowest levels in over two decades.”