Survey: Most Snohomish County students feel safe in school, though bullying still an issue

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healthy youthThe school and community environment is the focus of the second of four data releases from the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The trends for Snohomish County since 2008 show some promising improvements, particularly when it comes to students feeling safe and having access to after-school activities. The data also highlights slight increases in bullying and physical abuse across the grades.

“Every child, regardless of age, deserves to feel safe at home, school and in the community,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director for the Snohomish Health District. “It’s encouraging to see that the survey points to that happening. The survey also reaffirms our community’s priority on decreasing youth physical abuse rates in the county.”

Highlights of the data for Snohomish County include:

  • Carrying weapons and gang participation is down. Less than 5 percent of students reported carrying a gun or other weapons within the last 30 days. Seniors in particular showed the largest decrease, from 8.7 percent in 2012 to 4.6 percent in 2014. While 20.9 percent of sophomores reported having gangs at their school, only 5.4 percent said they were a member of the gang within the past 12 months.
  • Bullying peaks in middle school. Nearly 1 in 3 sixth and eighth graders reported being bullied within the past 30 days, compared to almost 1 in 6 seniors. Approximately 12 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders reported cyber bullying in the past 30 days, which is fairly consistent with statewide results. However, eighth graders have seen cyber bullying continue to increase over the years (10.5 percent in 2008 and 2010, 11.9 percent in 2012, and 12.2 percent in 2014).
  • Youth physical abuse continues to be prevalent. Rates of abuse and bullying have either remained roughly the same or increased. In 2014, 24.8 percent of seniors reported having been “physically hurt on purpose” compared to 17.8 percent in 2012. This increase could possibly be due to a rewording of the question, which had previously asked if students were “physically abused.”
  • Students feel safe at school and have adults and resources to go to for help. All grades reported at least 82 percent felt safe at school, with 6th graders and seniors being the highest at 89 percent and 88 percent respectively. More than 70 percent of students agreed their school had people they could go to if they needed help, and the rate of seniors who had an adult in the community with whom they could talk increased to 77.5 percent. Additionally, nearly all students felt there were many opportunities to get involved, with at least 65 percent of youth participating in sports, clubs or other activities.

“Youth involved in activities and sports do better in school and later in life,” Goldbaum said. “Snohomish County is fortunate to have great school programs and non-profit organizations in our community. It is vital that these continue and that access to them is increased.”

The Snohomish Health District has prepared two facts sheets on these topics, in addition to the four released last month on substance abuse. Each one features the most relevant questions and data for students in the county, as well as suggestions for what parents, schools, community groups, and government leaders can do moving forward. The fact sheets can be found by visiting http://www.snohd.org/Records-Reports/Data-Reports.

The Department of Health will be releasing data for a new topic each month through June. Data on depression and suicide will be released later in May, followed by findings on physical activity, obesity, healthy eating and screen time in June.

The Healthy Youth Survey is completed every two years and asks a variety of questions about substance use, safety behaviors, diet, physical and mental well-being, and school atmosphere. All 14 school districts in Snohomish County participated in the surveys distributed in early October, adding up to 11,852 sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders.

Visit http://www.doh.wa.gov/DataandStatisticalReports/DataSystems/HealthyYouthSurvey to learn more about the statewide survey.

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