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Board considers participating in SHARP survey

Article Date: 
19 October, 2012 (All day)

The Morgan County School Board is considering administering the Student Health and Risk Prevention survey to students in select grades in February or March of 2013.  In years past, some parents have objected to the content of the survey and claimed the schools did not properly follow through on the “opt in” parent permission procedure.
The board is set to make a final decision on SHARP survey administration at their November meeting.
This year, the Utah State Office of Education, Utah Department of Health and Utah Department of Human Services hope to administer the SHARP survey to as many as 50,000 Utah students in 250 schools in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12.  It would be the sixth administration of the survey statewide.
The survey measures students’ use of alcohol, tobacco and drug as well as health behaviors, dietary behaviors, antisocial behaviors and risk behaviors.  Students’ perception regarding community, school, peers and family is also a survey topic.  Survey proponents say it is a good way to determine risk factors for future substance abuse and antisocial behaviors.
If the local board decides to administer the survey, the Morgan School District will do so on an “opt in” basis, where students must provide a parent-signed permission slip in order to take the survey.  If a student feels uncomfortable participating in the survey, even if they have parent permission, he or she will not be forced to take part.  Those not participating can participate in an alternate activity such as reading.
Superintendent Ken Adams said any participation would be voluntary and anonymous, as the survey contains no identifying information.  Students participating would be arranged in the classroom during the 45-minute survey so their responses could not be viewed by the teacher or other students.
Only 168 Morgan students in grades 8, 10 and 12 took the survey in 2011, and 255 students took the survey in 2007.
Boardmember Jody Hipwell said she would like to see participation in future surveys increased.  She suggested offering incentives to students such as donuts, pizza or a free tardy/late pass.
The survey will be available for parent viewing on the school district’s website prior to its administration to students, Superintendent Ken Adams said.  
Adams said results from the survey will be shared with community groups such as Morgan Empowered in order to point prevention efforts in the right direction.  Earlier survey results indicated a Morgan problem with huffing and sniffing harmful substances.  Adams said school counseling departments and health classes gave specific instructions and strategies on the huffing problem.
The district began administering the survey in 2003.  In response to parental objections to the survey, the school board voted to not participate in the SHARP Survey in 2009.  In 2011, the district eliminated sixth graders from the taking the survey.
“We stopped the SHARP Survey once,” Board member Bruce Galbraith said.  “I hope not to get into a tailspin this time.”
Galbraith said he supports administering the survey in 2013, and he would like to see the sample size increased compared to past years.  Having data in hand helps the community counteract problems youth are facing, he said.