2016-08-05 / Editorials

A deeper look into minds, feelings of students


The California Department of Education recently released the results of its biennial California Healthy Kids Survey.

As with any such survey, there was good news and there was bad news.

Students in fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th grades are asked to anonymously answer questions concerning school safety, drugs, drinking and other health-related topics. Taken every two years since 1985, the survey — last published in 2014 — is the oldest of its kind in the nation.

“The CHKS is part of a comprehensive data-driven decision-making process on improving school climate and student learning environment for overall school improvements,” the state so eloquently puts it.

The good news: There was a drop of five to seven percentage points for 11th-graders who were very high or very drunk while at school. There was also a drop in the number of high schoolers who binge drink. Across all grades, there were fewer students who’ve seen someone carrying a weapon on campus. Better yet, there was a slight reduction in the number of fights on schoolyards.

Those are all positives.

But there was some bad news.

Only 40 percent of all high school students feel highly connected to their schools and just over half of middle schoolers feel highly connected. Those numbers haven’t really changed since the last survey. What’s more, less than a quarter of secondary students feel very safe at school. Again, that’s pretty close to what was found in 2013.

There was one finding the survey listed as “disturbingly high.” It had to do with students’ emotional well-being.

According to the survey, chronic sadness occurred among 26 percent of seventh-graders and about 33 percent of ninth- and 11th-graders. Also troubling was that nearly one-fifth of high school students had seriously contemplated suicide. Both these factors are closely linked to depression.

The authors of the survey wrote that the findings “underscore the need for educators, prevention specialists, youth service providers and health agencies to collaboratively focus more attention on better meeting the needs of our youth and helping them thrive in school, career and life.”

We’re lucky to live in Ventura County, where a wealth of social and health services — both public and private — are available to address such issues. Not to mention the great schools we have here.

The first line of defense, though, starts at home and with families. Life can get so busy with work, school and activities that it becomes all too easy to ask, “How’d your day go?” and accept the obligatory “OK” without probing any deeper. The survey shows us there are many youngsters who are not really OK.

There’s no doubt Simi Valley residents love their kids, but if we can take away anything worthwhile from this survey — even if it only comes out once every two years — it’s the simple reminder that we can all use some more love and attention. And in today’s sky is falling world, there isn’t anyone who’d mind receiving a little extra kindness and consideration. It may seem small, but it could make a world of difference.

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