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Teens seem fairly heathy

State survey finds good news, some concerns for local teens

Teens in the Lake Oswego School District have better health care, more frequent physical activity and are less sexually active than other students across the state, according to the 2006 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey.

Despite that good news, there's also a catch.

The survey results, provided by the district Monday, also indicated that the number of students who drink alcohol and abuse drugs increases dramatically from 8th to 11th grade.

According to the survey - which students in both grades took voluntarily last spring - 22.7 percent of 8th graders said they drank alcohol in the past 30 days.

In comparison, 51.2 percent of 11th graders said they did the same.

Binge drinking, or drinking five or more drinks in a few hours, also showed a big increase, from 6.2 percent of 8th graders to 30.2 percent of 11th graders.

Additionally, marijuana use rose from 5.2 percent of 8th graders to 29.9 percent of 11th graders.

While he feels good about a majority of the survey's results, Superintendent Bill Korach said the percentage difference in substance abuse statistics are cause for concern - but not entirely surprising.

'You're talking about a much different world from 8th grade to a junior in high school, in terms of access, choice and availability,' he said. 'This is why we do the study … to make sure we're grounded in what activities are taking place.'

According to Korach, the district decided to administer the survey at its four secondary schools for the first time this year to get a comprehensive view into students' health practices.

The survey, which is a collaborative effort by the Oregon Department of Health and the Oregon Department of Education, is anonymous, and participating students are asked to give honest answers.

In Lake Oswego, 462 out of 600 8th graders were surveyed, along with 428 out of 579 11th graders.

District results will be analyzed by the recently formed Respectful Culture Committee to help the group design programs to encourage positive lifestyle and attitudes. It will also be taken into consideration as the district begins work on the renewal of its health curriculum.

A five percent increase or decrease between district and state numbers should be considered a substantial difference, whether positive or negative, said Carol Middleton, executive director of schools and educational programs.

'We are looking at where we can say we're doing a good job and where we can say, 'hmm … not so good,'' she said. 'Even if it's bad, we need to get it out there. We can't hide it.'

Survey results show Waluga and Lake Oswego junior high schools and Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools are on track with the rest of the state in school safety, mental health and prevalence of asthma.

Positive findings were recorded in the categories of injury prevention, health care access, physical activity, AIDS/HIV education and sexual abstinence.

'We're just starting to analyze this data now,' Korach said. 'It's pretty much what we would expect … It gives us a good perspective on some of these risk factors and I think the data is reasonably accurate.'

Korach pointed out that although some risk factor percentages seem startling, the broader numbers paint a more accurate picture.

For example, a majority of students in 8th grade (92.1 percent) and 11th grade (70.3 percent) said they have never had sexual intercourse, while those having intercourse are participating in risky behaviors.

'There are some interesting things for us here,' Korach said. 'Of those kids who are sexually active, the risk behaviors appear to be somewhat higher, which would lead us to believe we've got to continue emphasizing what kind of sexual practices are risky.'

Eleventh graders in the district also have a higher percentage of substance abuse - including alcohol, marijuana and other drugs - than students in other districts.

In Lake Oswego, 51.2 percent of 11th graders drank alcohol, compared to 43.9 percent statewide. Also, 29.9 percent used marijuana, up from 18.7 statewide.

Korach said he prefers to compare the district's results to what district officials consider ideal, rather than the pool of surveyed districts.

One-third of all 8th and 11th graders at 256 schools across Oregon were surveyed this year, but only 40 of those schools were randomly chosen to represent the state. That number does not reflect the majority of Oregon's student population, Korach noted.

'We don't know that sample is a good distribution sample, all we know is there are a certain number of schools that participated,' he said.

He added that a number of the state's larger districts, which better fit the demographics of secondary schools in the Lake Oswego School District, choose not to participate.

'I'm not sure the comparison is as important as looking at what we would want to be and comparing ourselves to our aspirations,' Korach said, adding, 'You've got to expect we're not perfect.'

For more information on the 2006 Oregon Healthy Teen Survey, go online to