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Board approves survey of student health, issues facing students

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | October 22, 2021 1:03 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake School Board voted unanimously during a special meeting Thursday morning to allow district students to take part in a statewide student health survey.

In a 4-0 vote — board members Elliott Goodrich and Alana DeGooyer did not attend the online meeting, but DeGooyer cast a proxy vote — the board voted to allow the survey minus questions on sexual health and orientation. Students and parents will also have the option of not participating in the survey.

The survey, which is a joint effort by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington State Department of Health, is given to sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders every two years since its first questionnaire in 2002, according to sample survey questionnaires available at the Healthy Youth Survey website askhys.net.

The 2020 survey was postponed until this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Moses Lake School District spokesperson Claren McLaughlin. The survey would take place in November at the earliest, according to Vickey Melcher, school board president.

The surveys are intended to be anonymous and designed to find out about “issues facing students” in communities across the state, according to sample survey questionnaires in 2018, and ask questions about home life, access to and use of drugs and alcohol, attitudes toward school, sexual experiences, mental health, and how students identify their sexual orientation and gender.

Shelley Seslar, the managing director of student support for the North Central Educational Service District in Wenatchee, told board members the survey results help district administrators identify what problems young people in the community are struggling with and how to help them make better choices.

For example, Seslar said the data from the last survey gathered in 2018 and published in 2019 showed alcohol use was a bigger problem in Moses Lake than drugs, and that the rise detected in depression and anxiety got the region some funding for suicide prevention.

“I use this data all the time to help determine which services we should provide,” she said.

Student Representative Derek O’Brien said he personally knows some kids “who have used,” and that it’s necessary to gather information on the things kids do that affect their health and wellbeing.

“It’s important to know what we need to focus on in the coming years,” he said.

Board member Shannon Hintz agreed, especially for those students who come from families where there is little support to help kids make good decisions.

“This data is very important for our students,” she said. “We need to know where to intervene and help.”