Survey of Montana Teens Highlights Positive Trends and Areas for Improvement


Wednesday, July 6, 2011
By Allyson Hagen
406-444-3160

 Survey of Montana Teens Highlights Positive Trends and Areas for Improvement:

New Questions on Distracted Driving and Prescription Drug Abuse

Helena, MT – Today, the Montana Office of Public Instruction released the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results for Montana high school students.  The 93-item questionnaire developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a self-reporting student survey administered by the Office of Public Instruction in February of every odd-numbered year. 

"The YRBS survey reminds us how important it is to continually engage youth in frank conversations about risky behaviors," stated Superintendent Denise Juneau. "It also gives us an opportunity to confront our biggest challenges in ensuring the safety of our young people and highlights the efforts of effective programs whose messages are reaching students."

A highlight of the report is the significant decrease in alcohol abuse by Montana high school students since 2009. The percent of Montana high school students who have had a drink of alcohol in the past 30 days dropped from 43 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2011, and the percentage of students who reported binge drinking (five or more drinks on one occasion) during the past 30 days has dropped from 30 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2011. 

Additional improvements over the past decade show a decline in the percentage of students who never or rarely wore a seat belt when driving a car (from 19 percent in 2001 to 13 percent in 2011), who drove a car after drinking during the past 30 days (from 22 percent in 2001 to 11 percent in 2011) and who have ever tried cigarette smoking (from 67 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2011).

This is the second time students were directly asked about bullying and cyber-bullying in the survey. There was an increase in both categories with 26 percent of Montana high school students and fifty percent of 7th and 8th graders reporting they been bullied on school property. Nineteen percent of high school students and 23.8 percent of 7th and 8th grade students reported they had been electronically bullied such as through e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging during the past 12 months. In 2009, 23.1 percent of high school students and 38 percent of 7th and 8th graders reported being bullied at school, and 17.9 percent of high school students and 18 percent of 7th and 8th graders reported being electronically bullied.

"Bullying continues to remain a major issue for Montana students and requires action by administrators, teachers, parents and policymakers," stated Juneau. "We're losing kids from our classrooms because of bullying, and as adults, we need to take this seriously and make a concerted effort to provide safe learning environments for students."

New to the 2011 survey were two questions regarding distracted driving behaviors.  Fifty percent of students report having texted or e-mailed while driving a car during the past 30 days, and 53 percent talked on a cell phone while driving a car during the past 30 days. 

Students were also asked for the first time about prescription drug abuse. More than 18 percent of Montana high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription.

 "Many of these behaviors contribute to a student not graduating from high school or keep them from meeting their full potential," said Juneau. "We need to create safe learning environments for our young people, make them aware of the consequences of risky behavior and support proven prevention strategies."

The Office of Public Instruction has administered the survey in Montana, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, since 1991.

The 1999-2011 Montana High School Trend Report can be found here: http://www.opi.mt.gov/pdf/YRBS/11/Trend/11Trend_HS.pdf

Additional 2011 YRBS reports: http://www.opi.mt.gov/Reports&Data/YRBS.html

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