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Critical Survey for Youth Substance Abuse Data Fails in School Board Meeting

The Youth Risk and Resilience Survey (YRRS) had been placed on the agenda for a second time at the Questa Independent School District board meeting on November 15.


It had been shot down by the board along with a proposal from Sunrise Clinic two months ago. The concerns over the survey from board members remain largely the same, suspicion over the questions asked and a lack of knowledge by parents on where the information goes. The action item listing the YRRS survey was ignored, with no discussion leading to its second failure in front of the board.


In the audience at the meeting were two representatives of Vida del Norte, Janie Corinne and Maria Gonzalez, whose organization relies on the YRRS to collect data on substance use and abuse among youth — data which Vida is required to obtain for federal funding.


“The surveys are optional, voluntary, and completely anonymous,” Corinne told the Questa del Rio News in an email. “No one here ever sees the raw data, only summaries that the state department of health and the University of New Mexico/Albuquerque provide to us.”


Kids participate in the YRRS anonymously and they are able to skip questions if they desire. The purpose of the survey is to better understand mental health states at the schools in order to better serve at-risk students.


This is a part of a phenomenon all over the United States, with parents fearful of particular opportunities available in schools. The discussion has a focus on mental health and gender identity, which is where much of the fear among parents arises.


The YRRS is available to the public upon request at youthrisk.org. There are separate surveys for junior high and high school students.


“How old are you?”
“What grade are you in?”
“What is your sex?”
“What̕s your race?”
“Are you Hispanic?”
“When you ride a bicycle, how often do you wear a helmet?”
“Have you ever carried a weapon to school?”
“How often have you felt like you were treated badly or unfairly?”
“Have you ever been bullied at school?”
“Do you smoke cigarettes?”
“Do you vape electronic cigarettes?”
“Do you smoke marijuana?”
“Have you ever gone without eating for 24 hours?”
“How often do you go to a physical education class?”
“How often do you use social media?”
“Where do you usually sleep?”
“What kind of grades do you get in school?”


The above questions are examples from the sample survey at the youthrisk.org website. The survey for high school students asks some more esoteric questions on relationships, including questions regarding pregnancy and preventing pregnancy, but nothing inappropriate as far as this reporter can observe.


“The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?”


“The last time you had sexual intercourse with an opposite sex partner, what one method did you or your partner use to prevent pregnancy?”


Are the two above questions normal to ask high school students?


Since the board has not approved the YRRS, Vida del Norte will need to draft their own survey following their own core measures, in order to obtain the information from students needed for their federal funding.

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