The most recent results of a student survey indicate a decline in alcohol and drug use at Decatur High School (DHS) and DeKalb County high schools.
The Georgia Student Health Survey 2.0 is an anonymous self-reported survey conducted by the Georgia Department of Education each year to gauge student habits in and out of the classroom.
The results of the survey during the 2014-2015 school year had parents at DHS worried, as the results stated 45.2 percent of students had consumed alcohol at least once in a 30-day period, more than double the state average of 22.2 percent.
At the time, DeKalb County School District (DCSD) school survey results also showed 15.1 percent of seniors and 12.6 percent of juniors had consumed alcohol at least once in 30 days.
Over the course of last year, DHS parents called at least three meetings with community partners to discuss the results and develop a plan. This percentage declined to 29.5 percent for the 2015-2016 school year and has continued to show a decline in its most recent results.
DCSD student results show the same trend.
For the 2016-2017 school year, 22.59 percent of Decatur High School students reported drinking at least once in a 30-day period. DCSD’s numbers also declined to approximately 5.5 percent.
Approximately 5.4 percent of DHS students reported smoking cigarettes in a 30-day period and even feweer reported using other tobacco products. Approximately 13.7 percent of students reported using an electronic vapor product.
At DCSD, fewer than 2 percent of high school students reported smoking cigarettes or using any other tobacco product. Slightly more—less than 4 percent—reported using an electronic vapor product.
More students reported using marijuana or hashish over the same period. Survey results state approximately 16.5 percent of DHS students had used such drugs in a 30-day period. This is a decrease from the 2014-2015 school year, where 29.3 percent of students reported use.
At DCSD, approximately 6 percent of students reported use of marijuana, also a decrease from 2014-2015, when approximately 15 percent of students reported using.
When it came to drinking five or more drinks in two hours, also known as binge drinking, approximately 10.5 percent of DHS students said they had engaged in such behavior during the 2016-2017 school year. Approximately 2 percent of DCSD students reported engaging in such behavior.
Methamphetamine, heroin, sedative, painkiller and prescription abuse all reported below 5 percent at both DHS and DeKalb County schools.
DCSD deputy superintendent and student support director Vasanne Tinsley said the declining percentages represent a change in student perceptions. She said data indicates students are changing their decision making, friend groups and fair-mindedness for the better.
“The district can’t take all the credit,” Tinsley said. “Students are feeling more connected with their schools, feel they’re being treated fairly and developing mutual respect—those things tend to move students toward positive life decisions and activities.”
Tinsley said transiency and mobility remain problems—certain DCSD students may attend two or three schools per year, she said—but also that the district has methods in place to support students.
“We’re developing a circle of care and ‘wrap-around’ support,” Tinsley said. “There’s a focus on students in school. We have social workers, psychologists, student engagement coaches and student support specialists. These individuals work on relationships with students, run groups with students and talk with them to deter negative behavior.”
Tinsley said that through continuing such practices and developing more community partnerships, DCSD hopes to see further declines in future surveys.
According to The Self-Report Method by Delroy L. Paulhus and Simine Vazire, the advantage and disadvantages of self-reported studies arise in how one presents himself or herself, even with the guise of anonymity.
“The notion that people are the best-qualified witness to their own personalities is supported by the indisputable fact that no one else has access to more information,” write Paulhus and Vazire. “Why should we trust what people say about themselves? Impression management includes such [issues] as exaggeration, faking and lying whereas self-deception includes [issues] as self-favoring bias, self-enhancement, defensiveness and denial.”
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