Education feature: State suggests enlarging risk survey’s scope

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ Staff Writer

The state wants to extend the reach of a survey that measures risky behavior among youth.

State officials have created a version of the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey for middle-school students, and have requested schools administer it this spring, according to New Mexico Department of Health epidemiologist Dan Green.

The state classifies middle-school students as sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

Rhonda Sparks, Clovis Municipal Schools director of nursing, endorses administering the survey to Clovis seventh- and eighth-graders.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “Not only does it identify risk behaviors our kids are engaging in, but it also identifies positive aspects they have in their life.”

She does not recommend administering the survey to Clovis sixth-graders because they are housed alongside elementary students.

The Clovis school board will decide whether to administer the survey to middle-school students at the Feb. 27 school board meeting.

The Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey was administered for the first time in Clovis Schools in 2005. A sample group of 179 Clovis High School students in grades 10-12 took the survey, which measures student behavior.

Results from that survey were released to the board Tuesday. They mirrored state results, with Clovis students reporting engaging in activities at rates slightly above or below students statewide.

The anonymous survey inquires about drug use, sexual activity, support systems and home life.

Parents can exclude their students from participation, Sparks said.

Sparks said the data collected by the survey can provide insight into issues in the district, such as teen pregnancy.

According to Sparks, 20 Clovis High School students and seven Clovis junior high school students are pregnant.

Green said survey results have indicated youth develop risky behaviors at early ages.
“We feel like we need more information about middle-schoolers to target prevention measures at them,” he said.

“They are still young enough that maybe even though they have begun to engage in these behaviors, maybe they aren’t so well established because they haven’t been doing them as long as high school students have,” he said.

The Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey is based on a Centers for Disease Control teen survey administered nationally. The New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Public Education Department developed the survey, and the University of New Mexico administers it in New Mexico.