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April 15, 2006 Getting Personal With Eighth-Graders Eighth-graders at Ashland Middle School take a survey on personal habits Thursday. Of the 249 students who were asked to take th

Getting Personal With Eighth-Graders

— —

Eighth-graders at Ashland Middle School take a survey — on personal habits Thursday Of the 249 students who were asked to take — the survey, which includes questions about sexual activities, drug use — and suicide, 34 opted out of the study

Orville Hector |

Parents take umbrage over

Touchy subjects

A total of 34 out of 249 Ashland Middle School eighth-grade students opted out of this spring&

s Oregon Healthy Teens Survey &

up from the usual four or five &

after some parents objected to questions about sex, drug use and suicide

AMS Principal Dale Rooklyn said while the survey gathers valuable information, he agrees with some parents that the questions go too far


I think it&

s important that we collect the data from students about the choices they are making to help us respond better to their needs,&

he said &

The survey does have some extreme questions I wish there were a better instrument that didn&

t ask so many extreme questions&

Other parents said they strongly support the survey and believe the questions are appropriate &

even for kids in eighth grade

Juniors at Ashland High School take the exact survey, except for two additional questions for the older students that ask about sexual identity, according to Renee Boyd, Oregon Healthy Teens survey coordinator for the entire state

This spring, two high schoolers opted out of the survey, AHS Dean of Students Glenna Stiles said

The questions on the survey range from the benign, such as how many times in the past week a student has consumed fruit, vegetables or soft drinks, to the more serious Among other questions, students are asked whether they have had sexual intercourse, if they used birth control, if they have seriously considered suicide and if they have used alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines or cocaine

The instruction sheet for the survey tells students that their participation is voluntary, their answers are anonymous and if they do not feel comfortable answering a question, they can leave the question blank


Please do answer each question you are comfortable with answering Just because a question is asked, that does not mean that we believe you have engaged in a particular behavior,&

the survey states &

Each question has a response to indicate if you did not engage in that behavior&

Rooklyn said the higher number of middle school students opting out of the survey this year is probably mainly due to an upset parent who called other parents about the survey

Parents are notified in advance of the survey through a letter If they object to having their child participate, they return a form, he said

The father of an Ashland High School junior and a college student, Rooklyn said he objects to some questions on the survey but his spouse believes even kids who aren&

t engaging in risky behaviors should take the survey so results don&

t become skewed


Not all kids are experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sexual activity,&

he said

Two parents who had their eighth grade children opt out of the survey did not respond to a Tidings request for comments about their decision

Two parents who support the survey did respond to the Tidings

Leslie Kendall has a child in each of the grades targeted by the teen survey

She also works at On Track, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Medford, where she said she has seen fifth graders who are already in serious trouble because of substance abuse


These surveys are critical for people in the mental health and drug and alcohol fields,&

Kendall said &

We have to have something to identify problems How young is it really happening? Most students are not forthcoming with their parents&

She said she does not think the questions are too extreme, especially when children already hear about drugs, alcohol and sex from television, movies, the Internet and their peers

Jen Sturges, the mother of an eighth grader and a nurse at La Clinica del Valle health clinic in Medford, said she sees teens suffering from depression and pregnant middle school-age girls


Us having knowledge about their lifestyle habits helps us guide them and steer them away from detrimental behavior,&

she said &

I think avoiding these questions is like sticking our heads in the sand &

because those realities do exist in eighth grade&

— — —

Around — Town

— Amy Lang

— — —

Sex Talks: Ongoing conversations — with Your Children About Sex and Sexuality continues Monday at the Unitarian — Universal Fellowship Church, 87 Fourth St

Next week&

s speaker is Amy Lang, whose presentation — is titled &

Birds + Bees + Kids&


s workshop — runs from 7 to 9 pm and is free to attend

The answers given by eighth grade students help the Ashland High School shape its health classes for ninth graders, according to Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro

Because so many other school districts in the Rogue Valley use the state survey, it is also helpful in the development of county-wide strategies to help students, she said

School districts are required to survey students on drug, alcohol and tobacco use in order to apply for federal Title IV A Safe and Drug Free School funds, she said

But they are not required to ask questions on such topics as sex or suicide, according to Di Chiro

In response to the concerns from some parents, she said school officials will research information on other survey tools, including their cost and what questions the alternative surveys ask

Di Chiro said she can see both sides of the issue


We understand that parents may object to some of the questions We also need information so we can best serve our kids,&

she said &

I just hope parents will make an informed choice Parents need to make their own choices for what&

s right for their family&

— — Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro — believes surveys such as the one given to middle school students this week — is necessary in order for the school to better serve students and their — families

Results of the survey will be sent to school districts in late August, with results posted to the Oregon Department of Human Services Web site in September or October

Paper copies of the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey are available for viewing at Ashland Middle School and Ashland High School For more information on the survey, including survey questions and results from past years, visit wwworegongov/DHS/ph/chs/youthsurvey/

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