Drug use relatively low in local schools

Drug and alcohol use among Glendale Unified students is consistently lower than state and national averages, according to a recently released study. But the data, compiled as part of the California Healthy Kids Survey, are not necessarily cause for celebration, school officials said.

Fifteen percent of Glendale Unified seventh-graders, 38% of ninth-graders and 56% of 11th-graders self reported that they had consumed alcohol at least once, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey. Statewide, 24% of seventh-graders, 47% of ninth-graders and 66% of 11th-graders reported that they had consumed alcohol.

Sixteen percent of Glendale Unified ninth-graders and 27% of 11th-graders reported that they had smoked marijuana at least once, according to the study. Nationally, those numbers were 29% and 50%, respectively.

Also, 2% of Glendale Unified seventh-graders, 8% of ninth-graders and 14% of 11th-graders reported having been drunk or high while at school.

"We are glad that we are better than average," said Glendale Unified School Board member Joylene Wagner. "However, it is a reminder that those issues need constant attention."

Funded by the California Department of Education, the California Healthy Kids Survey is administered biennially as a means to gauge health-risk behaviors that hamper academic achievement.

The self-reported data includes grades, truancy, substance abuse, crime-related behavior and perceived safety at school. Students are also questioned about supportive social structures, such as the presence of caring adult relationships in their lives.

Results from the most recent survey, conducted during the 2009-10 school year, were released last month and included responses from 5,497 Glendale Unified fifth-, seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders.

Twenty-five percent of Glendale Unified fifth-graders reported having taken a sip of alcohol, but just 2% reported drinking an entire glass. Four percent of fifth-graders said they had used an inhalant to get high, and 1% reported smoking marijuana at least once.

The survey also revealed that 2% of Glendale Unified seventh-graders, 3% of ninth-graders and 2% of 11th-graders reported carrying a gun to school on at least two occasions. And 10% of Glendale Unified seventh- and ninth-graders, and 7% of 11th-graders said they had seen someone with a weapon on campus at least twice.

The California Healthy Kids Survey is reviewed by district officials, and studied on a site-by-site basis by school administrators, said Alex Rojas, director of student support services. It helps bring attention to issues that might not be immediately apparent, and allows teachers to initiate much-needed conversations, he added.

"Too often parents or non-educators see the reports as being negative," Rojas said. "What we like to do in Glendale is look at it as an opportunity for discussion."

Glendale Unified is committed to creating an environment in which students can be successful both in their studies and in their social relationships, Rojas said. It has in place myriad programs meant to protect and support students in every aspect of their lives, he added, and the survey data will help officials further expand those programs according to need.

"Every year we start with the goal of zero — zero suspensions, zero expulsions," Rojas said. "We never want to see it. That is always our goal, zero. You can never put your feet up on the table."

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