CALIFORNIA HEALTHY KIDS SURVEY
Drug and alcohol use dropped among students and perceptions of school safety increased in the Laguna Beach Unified School District, according to the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS).
The survey evaluates how well schools meet students’ needs for school safety, drug and alcohol prevention, mental health, and other factors that influence learning. Conducted every two years since 1985, the survey provides insights for educators and health professionals about how to improve services for students.
The California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) coordinated the report, which includes a sample of fifth-, seventh-, ninth-, and eleventh-graders statewide. The survey data also helps local school districts prepare their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs).
“This is the largest statewide survey in the nation and increases our understanding of how students feel about school and how they rank their school environment,” said Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “The more we can meet the needs of the whole child, including their social and emotional health, the more we can help them succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college.”
The Laguna Beach Unified School District survey results indicate that students generally perceive school as a very safe or safe place (85 percent at the elementary level, 90 percent at the middle school level, and 81 to 84 percent at the high school level). Among high school students, alcohol and drug use has decreased since the last survey conducted in 2014, dropping from 14 percent in 2014 to 6 percent in 2016 for seventh-grade students, 22 percent in 2014 to 21 percent in 2016 for ninth-grade students, and 54 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2016 for eleventh-grade students.
The district staff discussed preliminary CHKS results with officials from the Laguna Beach Police Department, continuing a collaborative partnership to support drug and alcohol prevention efforts for Laguna Beach students.
Some findings underscore the need for educators, prevention specialists, youth service providers, and health agencies to focus more attention on better meeting the social-emotional needs of youth. For example, feelings of chronic sadness or hopelessness were reported by 38 percent of Laguna Beach High eleventh-graders and 16 percent have seriously considered suicide.
“When children’s social and emotional health is compromised, it can create significant challenges leading to failure in school, inability to maintain friendships, and negative feelings about themselves,” said Irene White, director of special education and student services. “Using the data from the CHKS Survey, we have been examining our current systems of support in order to address student social/emotional needs at all levels and developing programs and systems in response to those needs.”
The district’s comprehensive plan for addressing the needs in the local community include the opening of the Learning Link this past fall. The early learning specialist, also a marriage and family therapist, and school readiness nurse have been connecting with families to provide developmental and behavioral screenings throughout the school year.
This past year, the district promoted opportunities for parents and their children to work directly with and learn from experts to increase parent knowledge and skills to help them prepare their children in reaching their optimal potential. The district also hired a second elementary counselor and reassigned school psychologists to provide each school site with a full-time school psychologist and at least one counselor. These supports have assisted the district in launching social skills curriculum in elementary classrooms at specific grade levels as well as adding opportunities for students and parents to access counseling services. At both the middle and high school levels, the district is adding and improving universal and targeted interventions. The district also invited local psychologists, including Dr. Jerry Weichman, to assist in both student intervention and parent education planning.
WestEd, developer of the CHKS for CDE, anticipates the district-level results will be available on their website in November.