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SHARP survey results reported

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Results of a much-debated school survey are in, and they aren’t surprising Morgan School District officials. 

2017 Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey results show Morgan students are turning to parents and other adults for help with mental health; the community provides family attachment, belief in the moral order and prosocial involvement; and drug and alcohol abuse are mostly below state averages. 

However, availability of handguns is high in Morgan; and bullying on school property is above state averages.  Drug problems in Morgan seem highest in the prescription narcotics, drugs, sedatives and tranquilizers categories.  High school students in Morgan are reporting engaging in self-harming behavior at or above state averages.

“The results weren’t anything we didn’t expect,” said Morgan Superintendent Doug Jacobs. 

In Morgan, a combined total of 544 students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades took the SHARP survey this year.  After a four-year hiatus and eight years of debate, the survey was again administered in Morgan schools. 

The survey measures students’ use of alcohol, tobacco and drug as well as health behaviors, dietary behaviors, antisocial behaviors and risk behaviors. Students’ perceptions regarding community, school, peers and family have also been historic survey topics as well.

Of 2017 Morgan respondents who indicated they were struggling with mental health in the past month, more of them indicated turning to parents than the state average. Students in all four grades surveyed said they could talk to their parents about their sad, hopeless or suicidal feelings. 

More Morgan students with sad, hopeless or suicidal feelings are seeking help than their peers on the state-wide level.  Tenth grade students said they could talk to a teacher, while sixth and eighth grade students took their concerns to a school counselor.  Sixth graders turned to therapists while 12th graders reported mental health issues to their clergy.

In the 2017 survey results, Morgan students indicated a favorable “protective profile” when compared to state averages.  In Morgan, the community, family, school and peers help Morgan students rank higher than state averages when considering family attachment, belief in the moral order, interaction with prosocial peers, and opportunities and rewards for prosocial involvement.

The survey identified the perceived availability of handguns well above state average, but such a finding is to be expected in a rural area, Board President Ron Blunck said.  “It is very normal for a rural district to have that higher than state average,” he said.  “It is common in rural communities.” 

Morgan students indicated substance use mostly below state averages when considering alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, marijuana, prescription narcotics, prescription drugs, hallucinogens, cocaine, inhalants, methamphetamine, prescription stimulants, prescription sedatives, prescription tranquilizers, heroin, steroid and synthetic drugs.  Morgan was also below state averages in needs for mental health treatment, feeling sad or hopeless, and suicide attempts or plans.

“We are under state and national averages in many areas,” Jacobs told the school board in October.

However, 12th graders reported prescription narcotic, prescription drug, prescription sedative, prescription tranquilizer, cocaine and synthetic drug abuse at or slightly above state average.  Engaging in self-harming behavior was slightly over state average in 10th grade Morgan respondents and right at the state average in 12th grade.

When considering where alcohol use takes place, Morgan students indicated “at home with my parent’s permission,” “in a car,” and “at or near school” in higher percentages than state averages.

When compared with state averages, more Morgan students in sixth, 10th and 12th grades are experiencing being picked on or bullied by a student on school property.  In sixth grade, 32.9 percent of respondents reported being bullied in the past 12 months, compared to the state average of 28.2 percent.  In 10th grade, it was 29.1 percent in Morgan compared to 18.8 percent in the state; and in 12th grade it was 14.2 percent to the state’s 13.2 percent.  Eighth grade numbers were slightly below state average, with 24.9 percent in Morgan compared to the state average of 25.8 percent.

But more Morgan students surveyed felt that teachers and administrators are maintaining good discipline in the classroom and school when compared to state averages.

As mandated by Utah state law, active parental consent was required of all students who participated in the survey.  Student participation is voluntary and all results of the 45-minute survey are completely anonymous. 

According to Mary Johnston of Bach Harrison LLC, a company that helped develop the survey, the purpose and benefits of SHARP are many.  These include providing data at the school, district, regional and state levels; providing data to help target and evaluate prevention services and write grans; collecting data required for Utah to receive federal funding; and providing data to demonstrate that federal and state funds are being used effectively.

Boardmember Gaylene Adams said the survey results will provide the Morgan School District with “good talking points” and a baseline.

“A state-wide concern is suicide and prevention,” Adams said.  “This gives our counselors and our folks some information to begin with and to work with.”

Using the data collected from the survey administered every other year will help Morgan participate in prevention measures—such as Prevention Dimension and All Stars offered through Weber Human Services—that are customized to Morgan’s specific concerns as unveiled in the survey.

The district first administered the SHARP survey in 2003.  In 2007, 255 Morgan students took the survey.  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.  That year, only 168 Morgan students in grades 8, 10 and 12 took the survey. 

In 2012, the school board unanimously voted not to administer the survey due to low participation in past years along with parent opposition.  Over the years, some parents have expressed concern that survey questions would expose students to concepts they have never heard about before, therefore increasing curiosity and initiating substance abuse.  Other parents are concerned about protecting private information asked for in the survey.

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