Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When being “above the state average” is not a good thing

The Edina Sun Current arrived on our doorstep today (June 16, 2011), and my heart swelled with pride as I gazed at a photo of a sea of Edina High School graduates in their caps and gowns on page one. The image brought to mind our sons’ graduations from EHS several years ago, and how excited we were that their performance at this top-ranked high school had landed them spots in top-ranked universities. Since our kids’ first years in the Edina Public School System, we’ve tracked headlines touting our school system’s superiority as measured by standardized tests in reading and mathematics, advanced placement testing, ACT testing, National Merit Scholars, and, of course, sports. All this excelling that Edina is noted for makes me proud to be part of the community.

But below that page-one photo was a news story about how Edina students rank above the statewide average on another measure: substance abuse – specifically, alcohol use, binge drinking and marijuana use. These results are from the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey which was completed in the spring of 2010. This is a self-reported, voluntary survey administered to Minnesota students in grades 6, 9 and 12 every three years. The Sun Current noted from the survey results that 53% of the Edina senior class of 2010 reported using alcohol in the past 30 days; the statewide average was 41%. Similarly, binge drinking and marijuana use rates in Edina were above the statewide average as well (see chart). 

Generally, it’s a good thing to exceed outstrip the state results, but exceeding the statewide average in school-aged substance abuse is not what we’d like our community to be known for.

Fortunately, school and community representatives have been working together on strategies to combat this problem for about a year now, and their recommendations will be presented to the school board in July for implementation this fall. And Edina Police Chief Jeff Long, the article notes, is making the issue of under-aged alcohol use a priority for the police department as well. These major efforts are encouraging, important and essential.

Edina High School raises awareness of the effects of drunk
driving at their annual Mock Crash event.
But, as the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” So, my fellow Edinans, what do you think contributes to the higher-than-average substance abuse rates for our teens? Is it parental attitudes? Do we expect too much from our teens, creating a pressure cooker environment from which they seek escape? Do students have too much discretionary income? Are alcohol and illegal drugs more accessible here than in other communities? Is peer pressure more potent here than elsewhere? Whatever the causes, what can each of us contribute to turning that situation around? For a start, I’m hoping to attend more alcohol-free graduation parties this year.

What do you think? I invite you to add your suggestions in the comment section below. 

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