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Healthy Kids Survey sheds light on issues

Much of the study was positive but officials hope to prevent more hopelessness and get parents talking tobacco.

October 04, 2012|By Joanna Clay

A recent study on Laguna Beach students highlighted issues such as depression, feeling connected on campus and drunk driving, but also revealed that a high percentage of students felt happy at home and had plans for more education after high school.

During the Sept. 25 Laguna Beach Unified School District board meeting, Director of Special Education and Student Services Irene White discussed the results of the California Healthy Kids Survey, with some of the findings causing alarm.

The study, conducted every two years and funded by the Department of Education, surveyed seventh, ninth and 11th graders at the four schools in town.

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Parents had to give permission for their children to participate. Sixty-six percent of fifth graders, 81% of seventh graders, 88% of ninth graders and 85% of 11th graders were surveyed. White said it was important to factor in the demographics of the students who didn't participated. She speculated that based on her own experience, those parents tend to be more conservative types who might insulate their children more and therefore the results could have been more positive if they had participated.

In the study, 19% of fifth graders said they either didn't or only sometimes felt that they had an adult on campus who cared about them. Of the seventh, ninth and 11 graders polled, 18% to 31% reported similar responses. White pointed to research showing a child needs a positive connection with seven adults.

"I think the value of an educator is significant," White said Monday. "The goal is that 100% of students believe they have caring relationships with teachers. It's definitely a concern."

White said the district has been working with staff on best first instruction when it comes to behavior — making sure to greet each child, praise them on their strengths and respond to each child's needs.

Behavioral and emotional issues also came up in the study. Nine percent of ninth graders and 11% of 11th graders reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. About 24% of 11th graders said they had felt sad or hopeless for a two-week period in the past year, which affected their ability to do everyday tasks.

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