Editorial: Keep student trends moving positively

Published 8:48 am Monday, November 22, 2010

Minnesota’s annual student survey shows the kids are doing better when it comes to some risky behaviors, but percentages are still too high for comfort in some areas.

The survey, done every three years, shows students appear to be drinking less and buckling their seatbelt more, but still an uncomfortably high percentage are engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and smoking marijuana.

The percentage of high school seniors who said they binge drink has gone down from 29 percent in 2007 to 23.4 percent in 2010. While that’s a positive development the binge drinking (defined as five drinks in a row) remains alarmingly high. Also seniors who reported drinking in the last year fell from 63 percent to 55 percent.

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Marijuana use also shows a troubling trend because the use has remained the same over the last three years at 31 percent of seniors.

On the positive side, seat-belt use has grown for 12th-graders from just 46 percent in 1998 to 71 percent this year. At the same time, 18 percent said they had driven a motor vehicle after drinking and that compared with a much higher 33 percent in 1995. Still, the goal should be zero for drinking and driving.

Cigarette smoking has declined greatly as well since 1995, when 42 percent of seniors said they smoked, compared to 19 percent this year.

Officials suggest many of the drug education and safety programs implemented by a variety of organizations have helped to get the word out on risky behaviors. In one case, schools have simply helped students realize they were overestimating the number of their peers engaging in drinking for example.

As Education Commissioner Alice Seagren noted, the direction many of the numbers are going is positive, but it’s still troubling that such high overall percentages of students engage in risky behavior. Even worse, we’ve seen some evidence that there are some cases of parents who allow underage drinking, accept it and implicitly condone it.

It’s important for each community and school district to examine their own student survey and determine what areas need attention. Healthy kids are the starting point to a healthy community.

— The Free Press, Mankato, Nov. 16