Shelter Island School students in grades six through 12 will be surveyed in early February to determine risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse, violence, teen pregnancy, school drop out and delinquency.
The survey will be conducted through the Communities That Care (CTC) program.
The program has been active on Shelter Island since 2007, working to reduce social problems among teenagers. The survey program, developed by researchers at the University of Washington, is designed to be very specific to each community’s needs, according to local coordinator Marilynn Pysher. That’s what makes it vital to do the local surveys to determine which problems need to be addressed here, she said.
Students surveys will be conducted in school and will take approximately 50 minutes to complete. Those and shorter surveys Parents are being asked to complete shorter surveys and those along with the school program will be submitted to PRIDE Surveys, an international testing company based in Kentucky, for compilation. For the first time, teachers will also be surveyed.
All are done anonymously and results will be tabulated and sent back to the local CTC for dissemination to the community.
“We don’t really have huge risk factors here,” Ms. Pysher said. But because the norms for the survey are established on a nationwide basis and Shelter Island is such a small community, slight variations reflected in answers from only a few people can sometimes appear larger than they are in reality. It’s part of the local CTC’s work to put the results into perspective.
“The kids take it pretty darn seriously,” Ms. Pysher said. They may joke about the surveys with their peers, she added, but because the surveys are geared to detect false information, it becomes evident that the end results provide a good picture of problems here.
It’s also important that parents take the approximately 20 minutes they need to complete their surveys since it gives a more accurate picture of how well parents and students are communicating with one another. CTC members will be contacting church officals on the Island asking them to encourage parents to participate.
“We’re doing it for the families of Shelter Island,” Ms. Pysher said about the survey efforts.
What Island surveys have revealed in the past is that students needed more guidance. That’s why CTC implemented its “Guiding Good Choices” program for parents. To date, 65 parents have gone through this program, creating support for one another and developing good family management skills. Parents have participated, not necessarily because they have troubled children or are failing in their responsibilities, but because everyone can use support in an increasingly complex world, Ms. Pysher said. She described the program as “prevention,” noting it’s more expensive and more difficult to deal with problems after they develop than to prevent them.
Once the survey results are in, Ms. Pysher will discuss them with school and community leaders and then hold a community meeting.