The Utah School Board draws support for student health and the SHARP risk study

After partnering nearly 20 years with government health and human services agencies in a two-year student study on health and risk prevention, the Utah State Board of Education voted to withdraw its support.

Some board members expressed concerns about the study, which requires parental permission for a student to participate. School districts choose to participate, and almost all have done so since the 2003 survey began.

The study is applied to sixth, eighth, 10th and 10th grade students in most public schools in Utah every other year. The next state survey on student health and risk prevention (SHARP) is scheduled for February 2023.

Board member Natalie Klein said at a recent board meeting that she would vote to get rid of the study because “I don’t know if it helps as much as it hurts.”

Klein said that when I put myself in the shoes of a teenager, “the dark questions in the poll make me worry, depressed, commit suicide, and make me think about things I would never think about.” It teaches me how to use drugs and think about frequent drug use. It makes me think that suicide is a legitimate way to deal with the discomfort and challenges in my life. That makes me see my parents as the source of my problems. “

She continued: “The SHARP study says nothing about the preferred stimulant for many children, pornography that is easily accessible and available anonymously in the school library and classroom.

Another board member questioned the length of the 120-question prevention needs assessment survey, especially for younger students in sixth and eighth grade.

Other board members opposed the abandonment of on-board support for the study, which government officials said helped tackle the rise in teen drinking and generated effective strategies to curb youth vaping, suicide and called for the creation of the SafeUT app, which provides real-time crisis intervention.

Board member Scott L. Hansen said withdrawing support from the board was “premature and irresponsible”.

The board reviewed the survey two years ago and voted in favor, he said. The study created a set of data dating back to 2003.

“We have this train that we have been driving for some time, this data set, and to withdraw our support before we have a replacement is simply irresponsible. Let’s create a working group or a working group. Let’s look at it while maintaining it, and then make whatever changes we need. Why signal to all our LEAs (local education agencies) that we do not want this data? “Some of them may be affected by this and drop out, and then we lose the ability to do anything about it,” he said.

Hansen acknowledged that board members were concerned and suggested that questions about pornography might be added to the survey.

Although the board voted late last week to withdraw support for the 2023 survey, that doesn’t necessarily mean the survey won’t run in Utah schools next year. School districts and individual schools may choose to continue administering the study, which is funded by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services with in-kind support from the State School Board. Schools also have the choice to give up.

The study is a joint effort between the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, the Utah State Board of Education, and research firm Bach Harrison.

“Students will accept it no matter what we say, because this is not our study,” said Cindy Davis, co-chair of the state school board.

“The only thing this whole discussion is doing right now is deciding whether to put our USBE letterhead in front of the survey. … This study comes out whether we do it or not. So I think everyone needs to have a clear understanding of what’s going on here, “she said.

Davis said she supported a working group, “because if we want to put our name in it, honestly, we have to feel comfortable with it as a board.”

The working group is due to report to the full board during its meeting in October.

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