BENNINGTON --The Vermont Department of Health has released its 2013 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report for the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union.
The anonymous survey, which was last issued in 2011, polled 822 Mount Anthony Union High School students -- 85 percent of the student population -- on subjects ranging from drug use, to sexual health, to bicycle safety. The numbers are weighted to reflect the total population of the school, including those who did not take the test.
In terms of physical violence or threats thereof, MAUHS ranked consistently below the state average, with fewer MAU students than average reporting involvement in physical fights, not wanting to go to school because they felt unsafe, or carrying a weapon on campus. The percentages of students who reported being in the car with a drinking driver or who reported driving drunk themselves were also significantly below the states averages (15 percent compared to 21 percent for riding with a drinking driver, and five percent compared to eight percent for drinking and driving.)
However, while MAU students scored well in avoiding dangerous drinking and driving situations, 23 percent of students reported that, in the past 30 days, they have been a passenger in a car with a driver who had been smoking marijuana, which is consistent with the state average. Eleven percent of MAU drivers said they had driven a car when they had been smoking marijuana, which is below the state average of 16 percent.
MAU was roughly consistent with state relationship violence statistics, with eight percent of students (10 percent of females and six percent of males) reporting that they had been physically hurt by someone they were dating during the past 12 months, compared to a nine percent average across the state. Six percent of MAU students reported that they had been physically forced to have sexual intercourse, equal to the state average. Interestingly, 11 percent of females answered positively to that question, versus only one percent of males, compared to nine percent and three percent, respectively, across the state.
The study showed that MAU sees roughly the same amount of bullying as the rest of the state, with 18 percent of students reporting being bullied. However, reports of who is doing the bullying differs. At MAU, 16 percent of females report bullying someone else with in the past 30 days, versus 15 percent of males. On average, only 12 percent of females report themselves as bullies, compared to 16 percent of males. Females were often the victims of e-bullying as well, with 29 percent of MAU females reporting being bullied online compared to only seven percent of males.
The survey also shows that 26 percent of MAU females hurt themselves without wanting to die in the last 12 months, two percentage points higher than the state average. This behavior was less common in males, with only seven percent responding positively. Similarly, 34 percent of females said that they had felt sad or hopeless for two weeks in a row in the last 12 months compared to 15 percent of females. 14 percent of MAU females have made a suicide plot in the past 12 months, and seven percent have actually attempted suicide, compared to eight percent and three percent for males. The rates for females for these statistics on the state level tend to be higher than for males, but the MAU females answered positively more than the state averages for every question save for making suicide plans, where they matched the state average.
Fewer MAU students have tried alcohol compared to students around the state (56 percent to 59 percent), and only 27 percent had drank alcohol within the last 30 days. Only 10 percent had tried alcohol before age 13. Fifteen percent said they have had five or more drinks in a row within the past 30 days, and 4 percent have had 10 or more drinks in a row within that period.
All the school's alcohol numbers fall below the state averages, save one: Of those who drink, 56 percent of MAU students reported drinking hard liquor in the past 30 days, compared to 46 percent across the state.
Cigarette smoking was also relatively low, with only 22 percent saying that they had ever smoked a full cigarette, 10 percent saying they had smoked in the past 30 days, and 4 percent saying they had smoked each of the past 30 days. Each of these numbers is below or equal to the state average. Additionally, of those who reported themselves as smokers, 55 percent have reported trying to quit in the past 12 months, compared to 44 percent across the state. Forty-four percent, on the other hand, have tried marijuana, which is above the state average of 39 percent, and 23 percent have reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days.
MAU students reported having sexual intercourse at a slightly higher rate than the state average, 47 percent compared to 43 percent, with 37 percent having had sex within the past 30 days. The amount of MAU students who used alcohol or drugs the last time they had sex was much lower than average however, 12 percent compared to 22 percent. Only 55 percent reported using condoms, compared to 62 percent statewide, and 18 percent reported using no method of birth control, including withdrawal, compared to 15 percent statewide.
According to Kristyn Harrington, school-based clinician and assistant principal, sexual education is covered in health class, which is required for all students.
Harrington said in a phone interview Thursday that MAUHS' two health teachers did a good job teaching the subject, and noted that it was often difficult to predict the reasons behind the numbers.
Per the survey, MAU students were also more likely than their peers to be overweight or obese, less likely to eat fruits and vegetables, and more likely to drink sweetened, carbonated beverages than their peers.
Administrators at Wednesday's Mount Anthony Union school board meeting were concerned that MAU scored particularly below state average on the question "The percent of students who agree that: In your community you feel like you matter to people." Only 38 percent of MAU students agreed, compared to 50 percent statewide.
"These kids are part of families, which are part of the larger community. I don't think it can just be done at the school level," said principal Sue Maguire.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB