On Jan. 8, seventh- through 12th-graders in Aurora will take a survey with questions on a variety of difficult subjects from domestic violence, to drugs, to bullying.
Assistant Superintendent Michael Roberto said this is the first year the district is administering the Ohio Healthy Youth Environments Survey, which is a collaborative effort by the Ohio Department of Education, Health and Mental Health and Addiction Services, Ohio National Guard and other education and youth organizations, according to oyes.ohio.gov.
"It’s online; it’s anonymous; and it’s voluntary," said Roberto Dec. 23. "We are setting time aside for our young people to take the survey. If someone gets on the computer and decides not to take it, that’s OK, as well."
The Ohio Healthy Youth Environments Survey has been offered free to districts statewide, he added.
Although Roberto believes the Aurora district understands fairly well the personal challenges its students face, the survey is a way of making sure it does.
"We feel there could be some missing areas we’re not aware of," he explained. "We’re hoping to keep our eyes out for those blind spots and act accordingly."
If the district does learn from the district level survey data there are common problems within the district that it hasn’t addressed, Roberto said the district will develop plans to fix those problems."
An email to parents of seventh- through 12th-graders was sent to parents Dec. 9. In that email, there’s information about the survey, as well as an opt-out form, which can be filled out online via Final Forms by Jan. 3.
Why might one want to opt out? According to parent Harry Bernstein, some of the questions delve into some very personal issues.
"When it’s this type of a survey with these types of questions, I think a parent should be able to review it and opt in," he said, adding he believes "less than 1 percent of parents looked at that. I think the school did an excellent job explaining it [in the email]. I’m a big data person, and I believe as long as privacy measures are put in place [surveys] can be very good."
The survey is broken into several sections, including safety and violence related behaviors, disabilities or long-term health problems, bullying, vehicle safety including questions regarding operating under the influence, behavioral health, use of electronic vapor smoking devices, teen drinking, marijuana, use or misuse of prescription drugs, non-prescription drug use including opioids, perceived risk associated with alcohol or drug use, physical activity, diet, concussions, students’ feelings about school, and gambling.
Altogether, there are 110 questions on the survey Aurora plans to administer. According to the Ohio Department of Education, there is a 119-question version that also includes nine questions on sexual topics.
According to the Ohio Public Health Information Warehouse, where the data is kept on past OHYES surveys, Portage County districts haven’t participated in the past.
Last year in Summit County, 19 middle schools and 20 high schools took part in a similar survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.