Local student survey calls attentiaon to mental health issues, relationships

NEW ULM – Relationship violence and mental health are among the issues that merit consideration based on local students’ responses to questions in the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey, according to District 88 Superintendent Jeff Bertrang.

The survey was administered in the first half of 2013 to public school students in grades five, eight, nine and 11 statewide. All public school districts in Minnesota were invited to participate. Of the 334 public operating districts, 280, or 84 percent, agreed to participate.

District 88 will review what students are saying, looking at several key factors, Bertrang said in general comments after sharing the recently-released local results.

These factors include: Do students feel safe in school (threats, weapons, bullying, harassment)? Are they engaged in school and feel like their time is worth it??and What are they saying about drug use and abuse by themselves or their classmates?, said Bertrang.

The survey administrators asked new questions in 2013 that relate to community activities and enrichment activities students could participate in, said Bertrang. “They also added ‘relationship violence’ as a new category, and those results are alarming,” he said. “We will need to work with our staff, students and parents about this category, and what an appropriate and healthy relationship is.”

“We are also concerned about the status of our students’ mental health based off the results of those questions,” said Bertrang. “The staff continue to get information about the signs and triggers of mental health issues, and we will continue to focus on programs and activities to support positive choices and attitudes.”

Public school student participation was voluntary, and surveys were anonymous. Across the state, approximately 66 percent of fifth-graders, 71 percent of eighth-graders, 69 percent of ninth-graders and 62 percent of 11th-graders participated. Overall participation across the four grades was approximately 67 percent of total enrollment.

The grade five survey version was shorter than the grade eight survey version, which in turn was shorter than the grade 9-11 version. The grade five and grade eight versions excluded items appropriate only for older students.

Approximately 2 percent of the surveys were eliminated from analyses because gender was missing, responses were highly inconsistent, or there was a pattern of likely exaggeration.

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