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Joyce Endee

School Board authorizes Youth Risk Behavior Survey participation

August 25, 2021
WOLFEBORO — Kingswood Regional High School (KRHS) students will join students across the nation in filling out the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention during the school year per vote of the Governor Wentworth Regional School Board. The purpose of the risk assessment is to collect data that will inform school systems on the needs of their students and help guide prevention efforts. The most recent YRBS was completed in 2019. It is recommended that students participate every two years.

A decision on whether to have students take part in the surveys this year was on the agenda of the Aug. 16 School Board meeting. The board voted, with one no vote, to proceed this year, despite some reservation expressed about the time taken from instruction and the tenor of a letter to the board from Team Wolfeboro, a community group.

Superintendent Kathy Cuddy-Egbert expressed "disappointment" at the appearance of the open letter to the board in the editorial section of the Granite State News, which sounded an alarm on "upsetting" results of the 2019 surveys without giving attention to the improvements from the previous 2011 surveys. The work goes on.

Team Wolfeboro urged unanimous support for giving the surveys this year and stated, in bold print, ""Ignorance has no place in education." The letter offered context, stating, "In 2018, Team Wolfeboro presented 150 pages of supporting information for conducting the 2019 YRBS Testing, including Letters of Support from every Police Department of the GWRSD towns. Consequently, the School Board strongly supported 2019 YRBS testing..."

There was no mention in the letter of the school resources (shared at a number of meetings attended by Team Wolfeboro members) that have developed in the years since the 2011 surveys, the increase in guidance services, and the activities and opportunities in place that center on mental and physical wellness. Among them, is the hiring of a wellness coordinator to help the most vulnerable children.

"We have a program to work toward an end," commented Chairman Jack Widmer, including talking to legislators.

Student responses, available to the public on the GWRSD.org website show: Decreases in use of marijuana one or more times in the past 30 days, down from 34.9 29.3 percent; use of methamphetamines/ down from 3.4 down to 1.4 percent; use of Ecstasy one or more times in life/ went from 8.3 percent down to 1.6; use of prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription/ jumped down from 23.2 percent to 9.7; experimentation with heroin/ down from 2.2 percent to 1 percent; a question on whether a student was offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property/ response went down from 29 to 23.7; ease of getting marijauna/ went down from 51 percent to 38.3; and a question on asking if a student's first drink occurred before the age of 13/ went down from 17.7 to 12.4 percent.

Discussion at the Aug. 16 GWRSD school board meeting began with Vice Chairman Jim Pittman of Effingham taking exception to the back of the letter that was sent to the board. The surveys "... in principle are a great idea," said Pittman, "but I question the impartiality of the people conducting it. The letter lists 13 deadly effects of THC/ marijuana, most of which have been debunked, and singles out Democrats, asking 'Why does one party want to harm our children and grandchildren.' That is by no means an unbiased view."

New Durham School Board member Stefanie King spoke in favor issuing the surveys, which she said she has administered, and offered the view that the mental health piece is most valuable, in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

"Data is not political," said King.

"I'm not impressed with the letter attached and wonder what are their intentions," said Wendi Fenderson, member at large from New Durham, "but a mental health baseline would be useful with wellness coordinator."

Krista Abear, member at large from Wolfeboro, also found the letter to be biased but said, "The information without their interpretation of it is worthwhile."

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