West Allis differs on school drug survey figures

Schools say they have healthier look on issue

May 15, 2012

West Allis - Results of a health survey which suggested that 28 percent of high school students in West Allis were offered, sold or given drugs on school property sometime in the previous year don't jib with the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District's experience, district officials said this week.

They base their measure partly on the results from searches by drug-sniffing police dogs, which found no illegal drugs at either high school or at the three intermediate schools this year or last year.

Similarly, only one person was arrested this year for selling drugs on school grounds and only one was arrested last year. Both arrests were at West Allis Central.

Evaluating survey

The Youth Risk Behavioral Survey done annually by the West Allis Health Department, in cooperation with the schools since 1993, is useful for planning. But in a written response to the survey, the district said the survey was not administered in a uniform environment.

"And with quality control factors, it is difficult to assess the validity on a question-by-question basis," officials wrote.

Further they said, the percentage of returned surveys compared to the total student population could skew the results. The response rate varied from 15 to 21 percent, depending on the class. The survey was of grades eight to 12.

However, the Health Department report on the survey results says that's good enough to be 95 percent sure that the percentages will not vary by more than 2 percent one way or the other if all the students had turned them in.

Initiatives, old and new

West Allis school officials say they are always working toward drug-free schools - and this year introduced two initiatives toward that end.

One is the Safe and Sober Family Education Nights, delivering practical tips and information given at Central in the fall and at Nathan Hale High in the spring.

The other is the Power of Youth and Families, for students who have been or are in danger of being expelled from school for drug or alcohol abuse. It is a series of six sessions for students and family members to receive information, and support that will help students re-enter or continue in school. Included in the program are building refusal skills, stress management, healthy things to do that aren't drug- or alcohol-related and parental vigilance.

These new efforts come on top of the schools' current anti-drug and alcohol abuse efforts that start in kindergarten.

The programs Fish/Tribes are for those tiny students where a positive classroom climate is created to promote helpful social behavior and positive student and adult relationships.

"You and Me Tobacco-Free" takes over in first grade. "Too Good for Drugs" comes along in third grade.

The program Teen Intervene goes in place starting at sixth grade for children who are starting to experiment with drugs. Substance abuse individual and group counseling is available from eighth grade through high school.

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