News Stories, School News

School Committee Presented Results of Youth Risk Behavior Survey

The Burlington School Committee was given a comprehensive look into the risky behavior students in the district have been engaged with during the latest meeting earlier this month. 

BPS Director of Physical Education and Health Matthew Jackling presented the committee with the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey that was given to all middle and high school students in the district in April of 2021. The survey was also administered in most other districts in the Middlesex League for purposes of comparison. In Burlington 646 middle school students and 695 high school students participate, meaning that each percentage point reported in the data represents approximately seven students.  

Jackling said the data is used to compare trends in student behavior over time to allow the district to assess the risks posed to student health and adjust programming and education appropriately. It is also a way for educators to better understand some of the stresses facing students to help with counseling. 

 “It gives us insight into what student behaviors are and it is the most direct information we have on this because it comes directly from our students,” Jackling said. “It really allows us to have a better pulse on what risky behaviors are engaged in.”

The survey looked at seven areas of risk-related behavior and indications of mental health: 

  • Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence
  • Behaviors related to mental health
  • Smoking and tobacco use 
  • Alcohol and other drug use 
  • Sexual behaviors related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV infection 
  • Unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical inactivity 
  • Impact of COVID-19 

Jackling first reported on the general mental health of the students in the survey. He said 33 percent of high school and 26 percent of middle school students reported that their mental health was “not good” most of the time or always with female students twice as likely to report depression. 

As for risky behaviors when behind the wheel of a automobile, one percent of high school students reported that they drove a car or other vehicle when under the influence of alcohol and three percent reported they drove a car or other vehicle under the influence of marijuana in the past 30 days. 20 percent of high school students reported that they checked their cell phone, texted or emailed while driving a car or other vehicle. 

They also looked at online bullying and eight percent of high school and 18 percent of middle school students reported being electronically bullied in the past year.

Jackling also broke down the reported use of different substances. The responses came out as follows: 

High School: 17 percent
Middle School: 2 percent 

High School: 7 percent
Middle School: 0 percent 

Electronic Vaping Products
High School: 9 percent
Middle School: 1 percent 

High School: 2 percent
Middle School: 0 percent 

Prescription Drugs
High School: 1 percent
Middle School: 1 percent 

High School: 1 percent
Middle School: 3 percent 

The students were also asked about engaging in sexual intercourse and the results were broken down by grade: 

  • 7th Grade: 2 percent
  • 8th Grade: 4 percent
  • 9th Grade: 4 percent 
  • 10th Grade: 10 percent
  • 11th Grade: 25 percent
  • 12th Grade: 36 percent

Another behavior Jackling briefed the committee on was the use of screen time outside of school. They asked the students if they used screens, including phones, tablets, television and video games, more than five hours outside of school. Here are the responses by grade who replied in the affirmative: 

  • 6th Grade: 22 percent 
  • 7th Grade: 28 percent
  • 8th Grade: 29 percent 
  • 9th Grade: 42 percent
  • 10th Grade: 43 percent 
  • 11th Grade: 43 percent
  • 12th Grade: 44 percent 

Finally, Jackling made a number of recommendations to the committee. They include: 

  • Continue to fund and support the implementation of the YRBS for the future 
  • Develop a better avenue to share results with the Burlington community in and outside of our schools 
  • Develop Parent/Teacher education series on various topics 
  • Utilize advisory/flex time to better support current initiatives 
  • Look to implement an elementary level Health Education position that provides prevention based instruction on social media, media literacy, diet/sleep education and healthy decision making 
  • Look to continue to add to student mental health resources

You can watch the full presentation here (video will start at beginning of presentation).