Tehachapi Unified School District's Chief Administrator of Instructional Service and Technology is concerned about a possible increase in use of marijuana by students, particularly following the passage of California's medicinal marijuana initiative, which legalizes possession of the drug for adults with prescriptions.
Six weeks after the California Healthy Kids Survey reported higher than state average drug use rates among Tehachapi high school and middle school students, the numbers of fifth grade school children that have used marijuana were equally as shocking, as this year's results reported a one-percent higher marijuana use rate than the Kern County average of two percent.
Meanwhile, student's perception of health risks for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use produced an interesting mix of results, with 93 percent believing that tobacco was a significant danger and only 77 percent viewing smoking pot as something bad for you.
"We think that number is a little low and it's a concern," Chief Administrator of Instructional Service and Technology Traci Minjares said. "But we believe because of the use of medicinal marijuana --students may be more likely to perceive it as being harmless."
The survey data came with a range of caveats, and Minjares cautioned that the results couldn't be generalized to the larger student population as only 50 percent of the required 60 percent of the district's fifth graders completed the survey, which required parental consent.
Nevertheless, the results also revealed other patterns both good and bad, as alcohol use among the fifth grade students that took the survey was higher than the county average, while the numbers relating to tobacco use were encouragingly lower.
The report also showed lower than county averages of students being hit or pushed on school property, as well as having mean rumors spread about them.
There were also increasing rates for students who reported high levels of high expectations from a teacher or other adult at their school and experienced high levels of high connectedness at school, both of which are indicators to monitor progress in reducing drug use.
Despite this year's low participation, Minjares said the survey could still assist the district in creating strategies to prevent, reduce, and delay the onset of high-risk behaviors -- including drug abuse.
"[School] sites will analyze the data and there will programs for the students and staff development in various areas," she said.
One grant funded program will be targeted specifically at fifth grade students, she noted.