For the first time, Abbotsford students will take part in a province-wide survey that gathers information about issues such as substance use, sexual behaviour and sleeping patterns.
The board of education voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow the McCreary Society Adolescent Health Survey to be conducted in the Abbotsford school district. This is the first time in the survey’s 20-year history that approval has been granted in the community.
In 2007, trustees voted against participating in the 2008 survey, saying some questions might offend students and their parents, and not be age-appropriate.
There were also concerns that some of the questions were leading and overly intrusive.
However, superintendent Kevin Godden said the survey has changed since then.
“I think it’s fair to say that this version of the survey is somewhat improved in terms of the content and the way the questions are worded … and the options for students to respond,” he said at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
Trustee Korky Neufeld, who voted against allowing the survey five years ago, said his main concern this time around was whether the information gleaned would specifically benefit Abbotsford and whether it was the best way for students to spend an hour of classroom time.
“I don’t want to take too much education time away,” he said.
But Godden said some of the information could prove helpful in giving the district an overall view of how students think about certain issues.
He referred to the district’s partnership earlier this year with the Abbotsford Police Department to draw attention to the dangers of ecstasy use, after the deaths of two young people in the city.
“The risky behaviours associated with drug use should scare the living daylights out of us as parents, so any information we can get, even if it saves only one life, is worth it … The district needs to be nimble in getting that kind of information,” Godden said.
Board chairman John Sutherland said that although the survey doesn’t break down the results into specific districts, the information can be used to complement local-survey results.
“This is a good opportunity to give it a go .. It could be that, right now, it could have some value to us.”
Trustee Shirley Wilson said she was in favour of the project now limiting the survey to 1,000 students in the district, compared to five years ago when all students ages 12 to 19 could participate.
“I’m pleased they (the McCreary Society) are doing it better,” she said.
The McCreary Society Adolescent Health Survey will survey 75 classrooms (approximately 1,000 students in Grades 7 to 12) in Abbotsford sometime in the new year. Parental consent will be required for a student to participate.
The survey, which is conducted in the classroom by public health nurses, has 135 questions and is answered anonymously and confidentially. Surveys were previously conducted – at no cost to school districts – in 1992, 1998, 2003 and 2008.
Question address issues such as substance use; injury prevention behaviour; suicide and self-harm; sexual orientation and gender identity; sexual behaviour; thoughts about skills and the future; and extra-curricular activities.
Survey results are compiled into regional and provincial reports, which are used by government, policy makers and communities to determine priority areas.
Visit mcs.bc.ca for more information.