“This survey will help us measure our efforts in the community. It allows us to see if what we are doing is affecting the mindset of the students,” said Tanya Southerland, executive director of Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors.
The 10-minute survey will be distributed to sixth-, ninth- and 11th-graders in Cleveland and Bradley County schools. All surveys will be anonymous. Only information on each student’s age, grade and gender will be collected. Across the top of the page Southerland has written, “DO NOT WRITE YOUR NAME ON THIS FORM.”
Questions comprise six sections: personal information, past 30-day use, average age of onset, perception of risk, perception of parental disapproval, and perception of peer approval. Southerland wants students to be as honest as possible. Anonymous surveys are meant to put students at ease. There is no chance for punishment based on answers given.
“We want them to be very honest. If they have had alcohol every day for the last 30 days, then we want them to write that down. Will we go look them up? No,” Southerland said. “If we get the surveys back and alcohol abuse is through the roof, then we will address those issues in the community.”
The last student survey occurred in 2009.
“Most surveys are every two years. We are a little behind the curve, but that is because GRAAB had to go back and add prescription drug abuse prevention information,” Southerland said.
GRAAB’s last survey revealed a high percentage of students involved in prescription drug abuse and inhalants. Their focus shifted from solely alcohol abuse to include the new drug risks. The Drug Free Communities grant awarded to GRAAB dictates questions be specifically asked concerning substance abuse. Prescription drugs have been viewed as a core substance abuse since 2010.
Southerland said information gathered through December’s survey will affect GRAAB’s focus. She encourages parents to check out survey results.
“Keep an eye out for the survey,” Southerland said. “You will want to know what your child is doing and we may need to come together to address the issues.”
Data collected through the survey may be utilized by local authorities. Southerland hopes the information will be helpful to local agencies, including law enforcement and the juvenile justice court system. DFC will also use the data in their compiled reports.
According to DFC’s most recent reports, recent trends for drug and alcohol abuse have occurred.
“Middle school alcohol use and high school alcohol and tobacco use continued to decline significantly,” read the report. “Prevalence of past 30-day use of marijuana is increasing and perceptions of risk of marijuana use are declining.”
Reports also claim DFC communities show a significant decrease in substance abuse among teenagers. Cleveland and Bradley county are viewed as DFC communities due to GRAAB’s involvement. Results in January will show the shift in teenagers’ focus since 2009 and GRAAB’s new focus.