Teen drinking down slightly

MOST of Us survey shows decline


Mary Bailey
Community Editor

“Most kids do the right thing all the time,” High School Principal Steve Massey said, “but perhaps that’s not the perception.”

At the Oct. 3 meeting Massey, with Matt Howard of the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau and Forest Lake Police Officer John Glader, updated the school board on the local MOST of Us campaign.

Survey data show that most Forest Lake Area High School students do not drink alcohol in a typical month. But teens believe that the number is far higher: They believe that eight out of 10 do.

The goal is to decrease teen drinking by correcting that misperception. If teens know that few of their peers engage in this risky behavior, perhaps they will be less likely to drink.

And it may be working. Last year one poster announced that 7 out of 10 FLAHS students don’t drink in a typical month. This year the poster says 3 out of 4.

Another poster from last year, reporting the number of teens who don’t drink alcohol at parties, said 79 percent do not. This year it says 85 percent.

The numbers are from two surveys, the first taken in 2011 and the second in 2013. The difference is statistically significant. The margin of error is 3 percent.

Howard said the survey results can be trusted. The survey uses anonymous self reporting, so there are no repercussions if a student admits using drugs.

From the 1,255 surveys, Howard said 59 were discarded. Excluded from the survey results were exaggerated responses (such as a student responding yes to every question) and obvious lack of cooperation (such as a smiley-face pattern on the response sheet).

The results from this survey, he added, are very similar to the results from other surveys, including the Minnesota Student Survey and federal measures. “Similar data is validating,” he said.

The focus is on alcohol, where substance abuse typically starts, but this year the message is being expanded to include more marijuana and prescription drug use.

“With all the publicity over legalizing marijuana, kids are left in a difficult spot of deciding,” Glader said. “In reality, it’s not safe.”

The survey shows that one out of three FLAHS students has used marijuana.

Glader said the positive community norms approach, focusing on what is right to fix what is wrong, is being incorporated into the mock crash program at the high school.

Besides the school district, youth service bureau and city of Forest Lake, other partners in the local MOST of Us program are the Forest Lake Area Partnership for Families, Washington County and the Lions. Glader said the program is also supported in Columbus, Wyoming and Scandia. Among local businesses, Big Apple Bagels has been especially supportive, he said.