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FOX47 NEWS - Gauging Kids' Risky Behavior

Jeff Angileri
Nov 25, 2008, 10:29 PM


From drugs and alcohol to health and sex -- we'll soon know a lot more about the habits of young people.

Dane County leaders say to stop risky behaviors among kids, you first have to know what they're doing.

Students will take part in a lifestyle survey from December 1st thru 19th -- at $600 per district.

Educators say the findings are priceless and eye-opening.

It's finding out what's in the minds, and what's in the hearts, and what our students are concerned about, and what issues they're facing as young people, said Daniel Nerad, Madison Superintendent.

Dane County students will have the opportunity to answer tough questions about alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, nutrition, even sex -- 110 questions in a computer survey.

Our youth board looked at it first -- the Dane County Youth Board, said Connie Bettin, Dane County Prevention Services Manager. They laughed at some of the questions, and they're like look, 'If you're going to ask us, just ask us. Don't beat around the bush, just ask us what you want to know.'

School counselors expect honest answers. They say students respond positively to voluntary, anonymous surveys.

Nobody's going to come to their home and tell their mothers what they said, Mary Helfrich, Jefferson Middle School Counselor said. Students do want to tell their story, and they want people to know how they're living and what their ideas are.

And their answers could affect everything from school budgets to public policy.

The trends do change over time, said Helfrich. Students become interested in other areas. People move in from other areas and so students' behavior and their home lives change.

Nerad said, We have a responsibility, not alone, with the community in ensuring we're designing programs that fit the needs -- and we're going to have those needs expressed by students -- student voice, young people voice.

With an electronic survey, results are available right away. Dane County plans to release the findings in late December or early January.

All school districts in Dane County except Deforest and Waunakee have signed on to participate.

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