Report: Clark County students still smoking, taking part in risky behavior

A survey taken by Clark County high school students show area teenagers are still participating in risky behavior at a high rate, officials said.

The survey results released by the Clark County Combined Health District were gathered when Clark County high school students took the survey in school in November 2017.

About 4,450 students from all 13 high schools in the county participated in the survey. That amounts to about a 68 percent response rate, according to the results.

The survey is done at school but is anonymous and students are encouraged to answer truthfully, CCCHD Commissioner Charles Patterson said. The district also “cleans” the data to remove any survey that has contradictory answers or appears to not have been taken seriously, he said.

MORE: Clark County health inspections: Springfield City Schools

The results were released this month.

About 15 percent of students said they were either offered or sold drugs on a school’s campus, the survey results show. More than 17 percent of students had carried some sort of weapon in the 30 days prior to taking the survey and 22 percent of respondents said they had thought about committing suicide in the last year.

“The outcomes of this survey are always discouraging,” Springfield Superintendent Bob Hill said. “Alcohol abuse, drug use, and weapons are all hot topics at the local, state and national level. We read about these issues in the newspaper each day — opioid abuse, violence and even suicide. We see it online, in social media, on YouTube, and on television. These topics are an unfortunate reality.”

Almost one in five high school students rode in a car driven by someone who had been drinking within 30 days of taking the survey, the results say. Around 23 percent of students had been involved in a physical fight in that time period and 34 percent of respondents said they had sex in their lifetime, according to the results.

READ: Clark County health inspections: Greenon Local Schools

“In the Springfield City School District, we encourage our students to lead clean, healthy lives - nutritionally, psychologically, and socially,” Hill said. “We encourage kindness, inclusion, the importance of academic success, and even survival skills.”

Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Brian Kuhn said the survey is a valuable tool for him and his staff as they seek to address safety concerns among their students.

“This data helps us to continue to improve a well-rounded education that supports our students,” Kuhn said.

He said Clark-Shawnee hired guidance counselors who are trained in mental health to help students. The counselors are in constant contact with students, Kuhn said, to make sure students are healthy.

A number of county-wide statistics found in the survey were concerning, Patterson said.

“A third of the (Clark County) kids had tried to smoke a cigarette,” Patterson said. “That is a place where we don’t want to be in this county. We are concerned that our adult smoking rate is higher than the state and national averages and this is the beginning of that.

“Just trying a cigarette, we would like to hope that our teenagers aren’t,” he said. “Even a higher percentage have tried electronic vapor products so that’s telling us that they think those are somehow less risky or less dangerous,”

MORE: Clark County ranked third in drug deaths in state, new data show

It’s not possible right now to compare the most recent data with the previous data, Patterson said. The health district actually surveyed too many students this time around compared to in 2015, meaning the numbers may be skewed. He said his staff is working on the 2015 data to make it more comparable with the most recent numbers.

However, he said it does appear the number of teens having sex is lower than in previous years, even though he believes those statistics are still too high. He said in 2009, more than 50 percent of teens said they had sex in their lives, compared to the 34 percent in most recent survey.

“We’ve had a lot of programming going on in the county and city,” Patterson said. “We are happy to see that happening.”

The Springfield News-Sun covers teen health and safety, unlike any other news source. The Springfield News-Sun has covered and published school inspections, teens safety driving and the risky behavior survey.

Facts & Figures

4,552: Number of Clark County students that took the risky behavior survey

22 percent: Number of Clark County students who thought about committing suicide

34 percent: Number of high school students who have had sex in their life.

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