By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "This is a picture of our community," began Jim McCollum, the principal of Laconia High School as he presented the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to the School Board Tuesday night. "These are our kids," he said.
The survey, developed in 1991 by the Center for Disease Control, a federal agency, was undertaken in 2015 at the high school. Altogether 463 of the 627 students completed the survey, which measures the prevalence of tobacco, alcohol and drug use, suicidal inclinations, and sexual and physical activity. The report measures responses of students at Laconia High School against those of their counterparts in the region — Belmont, Franklin, Gilford, Meredith and Tilton — and the state.
The report indicates that the prevalence of risky behaviors among Laconia is greater than that of their peers in the region and state. Nearly a third of students reported they currently use marijuana and almost two-thirds responded they perceive no moderate or significant risk in doing so, both levels higher than in the region and state. More than third drink alcohol. McCollum noted that that teenagers who smoke marijuana and drink alcohol are 65 percent more likely to turn to heroin than those who do not.
On the other hand, less than one in five students smoke cigarettes and only about one in 10 dismiss the risks of smoking tobacco. But, almost a third use electronic vapor products, prompting McCollum to express his chagrin that what he said "used to be called a head shop" plies a brisk trade in the paraphernalia of vaping within sight of the high school.
More than a third of students responded that they were sexually active and almost half said they had engaged in sexual intercourse. Half of that sexually active group said they did not use a condom and three-quarters said they did use birth control pills when they last had intercourse. 15 percent of students said they had been the victims of sexual violence and 10 percent reported they were physically forced to engage in sexual intercourse.
More than one in five students reported they had seriously considered suicide and one in 10 had attempted to take their own lives. McCollum said that a counselor from Genesis Behavioral Health who serves students at the high school is "booked solid."
Almost a fifth of students responded that a member of their family was serving a sentence in jail or prison, more than a fifth "saw or heard" domestic violence in their home, and 45 percent had lived in a household where a member abused alcohol or drugs.
MacKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who coordinates the program funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said that the survey "is not a report on the school. It's a reflection of our community."
"This how our kids live day to day," said McCollum. "We all deal with this on a daily basis. It is a serious situation."
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