Youth Risk Survey Shows Decrease in Marijuana Use Among Bedford Teens

Representatives from Youth and Family Services, the Bedford Police Department and Bedford Public Schools presented the biennial youth risk survey on Nov. 14.


When Youth and Family Services administered their last youth risk survey in 2010, 22 percent of Bedford High School students reported they had used marijuana in the month prior to the survey; in 2012 only 11 percent reported doing so. 

Administered every two years, the youth risk survey is based on surveys done by the Center for Disease Control, and is given to Bedford students from grades six to 12, with 1243 students participating in 2012. 

Presenting the survey Wednesday night, Director of Youth and Family Services Sue Baldauf said the results of the survey will help community leaders plan policy and programs to help keep Bedford youth safe. 

"I'm struck with the trend data and feeling so positive about how we've done since we've started doing this," Baldauf said. 

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Only 3 percent of middle school students and 22 percent of high school students reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to taking the survey, a decrease from 33 percent at the high school level in 2010. 

The rate of current cigarette use at BHS is well below the state average of 14 percent at only five percent.

An average of 28 percent of high schools students across Massachusetts reported smoking marijuana in 2011. Only 11 percent of BHS students reported using marijuana in the month prior to the 2012 survey. 

Superintendent Jon Sills said the trend data is encouraging, especially considering the spike in marijuana use that occured after the 2008 law decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of marijuana was passed.

"10 to 12 years before the decriminalization law was passed there were maybe one or two instances of students using marijuana at school," Sills said. "For a year or two after the law changed there were multiple instances where kids felt emboldened to light up marijuana in school."

Director of Health and Physical Education for Bedford schools, Jacqueline Supprise, said health teachers saw many misconceptions surrounding the use of marijuana use in high school students following the 2008 decriminalization law. 

"Since the last survey we've redoubled our efforts with education about marijuana," Supprise said. "There were a lot of misconceptions around marijuana use that were perpetuated by the decriminalization. We broke down those misconceptions."

Bedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno said he hopes not to see another spike in marijuana use among Bedford students following the passage of ballot question 3, which legalizes the use of marijuana for certain medicinal purposes.

"There are many challenges and loopholes in the new law," Bongiorno said. "I hope not to see another increase because of this mixed message we're sending our kids."

Sills said one way parents can help address drug use among Bedford students, especially the presence of marijuana at school, is to urge their kids to come forward with any information about students who could be dealing drugs at school.

"Our goal is not to catch kids, but to prevent kids from bringing drugs to school because they are afraid they might get caught," Sills said. 

A new issue covered by the 2012 youth risk survey was bullying, with 15 percent of Bedford middle school students and 12 percent of high school students reporting they had been bullied in the year prior to the survey.

At the middle school level, 33 percent of students surveyed reported they had seen someone else bullied, while 40 percent of high school students reported seeing bullying take place.

High school students (68 percent) were more likely than middle school students (54 percent) to watch the bullying happen and not report it to an adult. 

Sills emphasized that bullying is more often than not emotional or cyber-bullying.

"Very rarely do we see physical bullying, it's really about emotional violence," Sills said.

Bongiorno highlighted one area of concern is parents sending the message to their kids that underage drinking is okay, as long as it is done under under their roof. 

"Parents need to understand its not a right of passage," Bongiorno said. "We need to be parents and say you can not legally drink until your 21."

To look at the complete results of the youth risk survey check out the Youth and Family Services website.

knowa November 17, 2012 at 06:55 PM
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