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Survey: One-third of Newton high schoolers reported drinking in the prior 30 days

2013 June 14
by Village 14

Patch’s Brooklyn Lawrey reports on  all the findings of thelatest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, (full PDF report here) which is administered to Newton middle and high school students every two years.



37 Responses Post a comment
  1. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 12:37 PM

    The stress level of our high school students is an indictment of our educational system. I’m sure it’s not exclusive to Newton, but our School Committee has done nothing of substance to address it. School Committee members are so oblivious to this problem that they haven’t even attempted to ensure these teenagers receive adequate sleep. Lack of sleep is a direct contributor to stress and has numerous other health consequences. Two years ago, when they were vying for election, a majority of school committee candidates came on this blog and responded to my concerns about the issue of high schools starting too early in the morning. Every one of those people made a commitment to address this problem. Not a single candidate disagreed it was a problem. Here we are two years later, and high school still starts at approximately 7:30am. That’s why I will not be voting for a single incumbent in this years school committee elections.

  2. June 14, 2013 01:40 PM

    @Mike: I’m not sure that the fact that the schedule has not changed necessarily means none of the current school committee members haven’t advocated for a change or that the matter hasn’t been considered by the school department.

  3. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 01:55 PM

    @Greg– Are you suggesting they may be powerless to change the time, or just too incompetent to actually change it?

  4. June 14, 2013 02:14 PM

    Actually I’m not up to speed on what, if anything, has been done or considered. I’m suggesting that unless you know definitively, you shouldn’t be accusing all eight members of not “addressing” this issue.

    This is certainly a worthy idea. But it is very complicated. It impacts so many things including, bus schedules, start times at middle/elementary schools, sports and other after school activates, etc.

  5. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 02:27 PM

    That’s why we elect a School Committee. To solve problems, not just talk about them. Anyone who doesn’t think stress is a major problem in our high schools, needs only look at the survey. Anyone who doesn’t think lack of sleep is a contributing factor to stress, needs only look at the studies that have been conducted on this topic. Maybe I’m just expecting too much from the School Committee to be concerned about our children’s health and well being.

  6. Joanne permalink
    June 14, 2013 03:04 PM

    It is my understanding that the SC employes the Superintendent. If the SC really wanted to change something /ANYTHING – they are the Superintendents BOSS . If they felt this was an issue they could mandate it to be done.

    Unfortunately for our children – other than Geoff we dont have any forward thinking people on the SC.

    So Mike is correct that it is ULTIMATELY the SC responsiblity.

    Mike – maybe you need to run for Mayor so we can clean up the mess in this City.

  7. Hoss permalink
    June 14, 2013 03:05 PM

    The survey is showing that those that identify as being “very stressed” has declined from 28% ten years ago to 20% today. It is also showing that those students that say they have been in a fight in the last 30 days has declined about 50% in ten years. Alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use has declined. These are HUGE improvements. Some indicators of why there is improvement is that they are talking more openly to adults. High fives all around. Why are we concluding that stresses have increased?

  8. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 03:34 PM

    Hoss– “…three quarters of high school students [74%] described their lives as either somewhat stressful or very stressful, and these rates have remained largely consistent over time.”

  9. Hoss permalink
    June 14, 2013 03:57 PM

    Mike Striar — The actual data in the PDF shows a decline of 800 basis points in those describing life as “very stressful” The partial offset is an increase of 400 basis points in those saying “somewhat stressful”. I didn’t see where you got the negative conclusion; now I see it was from the data analysis. A 400 basis point (net) change is a very significant — movement of 800 points at the extreme is HUGE

  10. June 14, 2013 03:58 PM

    Unfortunately for our children – other than Geoff we don’t have any forward thinking people on the SC.

    Joanne: That seems like another pretty broad, unsubstantiated, statement. I doubt even Geoff Epstein would be so dismissive of all of his seven colleagues. In fact, here’s what Epstein wrote when he announced he would not seek reelection

    We have a much improved city government which values openness and transparency, strives to make data driven decisions and is dedicated to providing citizens value for their tax dollars. That new atmosphere has penetrated the school committee, where most of the old school thinkers on the school committee have termed out and that process will complete next November.

  11. Kim permalink
    June 14, 2013 04:18 PM

    Do kids drink because of stress? I’m not sure that’s why the majority of High Schoolers drink.

  12. Gail Spector permalink
    June 14, 2013 04:32 PM

    I, um, know some people who drank when I was in high school. And high school was a lot less stressful then.

  13. Joanne permalink
    June 14, 2013 04:48 PM

    Greg- why don’t you tell me what the SC has done that is Forward Thinking in the past year?

  14. June 14, 2013 04:52 PM

    @Joanne: Why not ask Geoff? He’s the one who sat through every meeting and has said as much.

  15. Jerry Reilly permalink
    June 14, 2013 05:06 PM

    I’m with Kim on this one, if my long ago experience in high school is any guide. The high achieving, hard working, high expectation high school students seemed to experience the most stress but as a group weren’t the heavy drinkers. Of course, there were plenty of exception to that generalization. It seemed to be that the drinking tended to be centered much more heavily in the low stress, don’t-take-any-of-it-too-seriously portion of the high school population.

    I think the high school drinking issue is an important one. I’m just not sure that stress reduction is a major part of the answer to it.

  16. Gail Spector permalink
    June 14, 2013 05:20 PM

    Jerry –
    Most Newton high school students are high achieving, hard working and high expectation. I don’t think your high school experience matches up to teenage behavior today. Some of the highest achieving kids are the biggest partiers. I would guess that, at times, they’re blowing off steam. But the rest of the time I suspect they’re being teenagers.

  17. Joanne permalink
    June 14, 2013 05:22 PM

    Greg – You not Geoff were the one that said my statement was unsubstantiated so please enlighten me about all the great Forward Thinking things that the SC has done and prove me wrong.

  18. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 05:24 PM

    I do personally believe that stress contributes to drinking. But I’m not suggesting reducing stress as a means to curtail drinking. I’m am a bit baffled why the take-away here is 1/3 of high schoolers have been drinking , when the real focus should be on the 3/4 of the high school students who are struggling with stress. Particularly since a a great deal of the source of that stress is systemic.

  19. June 14, 2013 05:41 PM


    You don’t care what my opinion is and we both know it.

    I don’t watch or follow every School Committee meeting, especially in the past year, but I also don’t pretend that I do. My POINT was that I doubt Mike or you do either so it is UNFAIR to paint the entire committee with the kinds of generalizations you both did because, the truth is, YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

    My added point to you was: Since you clearly respect and admire Geoff Epstein and he doesn’t appear to share YOUR stated view that he is the ONLY “forward thinker” on the committee …why don’t you trust and/or respect his view?

  20. Joanne permalink
    June 14, 2013 05:58 PM

    Unfortunately Greg you cant substantiate your statement to me – if you could you would. But obviously you can’t.

    As for if I sit and watch the SC meeting – you bet. I can tell you that this past week NEWTV ended the program promptly at 10 pm in the middle of Matt Hills statement. And I so wanted to know what he thought about the fees.

    As for have I followed what the SC – actually yes for the past 10 years. So maybe I know a thing or two about who on the committee has been or presently is forward thinking .

  21. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 06:12 PM

    Greg– You may be inclined to credit elected officials for discussions that they may or may not have had. I judge elected officials on what they do or do not accomplish. I’ve been advocating later high school start times for nearly 10 years. Two years ago most of the SC candidates agreed there was sound basis for doing that. At what point do we–[yes, I’m going to use that term]–call a spade a spade, and recognize failure for what it is?

  22. Jane permalink
    June 14, 2013 08:15 PM

    You may all tell me to get a life, but I’ve watched SC meetings for years. The present committee is thoughtful and thorough in its examination of issues. Many residents have issues that they feel passionately about. The committee and/or system can’t address them all. If the system changed the HS schedule, then another group would be complaining about the unintended consequences of the decision.

    As for who’s stressed and why – in part it’s the language of this generation and we may be interpreting the use of the word differently than they do. My kids still talk about being “stressed out” and they’re reasonably happy and well adjusted. In the HS, it’s the responsibility of a parent and the school personnel to determine when a student is really having trouble dealing with adolescent and school issues. In my experience, when kids were really “stressed”, the school jumped all over the situation.

  23. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 08:35 PM

    @Jane– Sleep deprivation has been linked to other health issues in teens, not just stress. It’s also been shown to decrease a student’s ability to learn. Most of the current SC members have previously acknowledged the early start times at the high schools are an issue. Are you really trying to suggest this is a non-issue that’s not worthy of being addressed?

  24. JLF permalink
    June 14, 2013 09:08 PM

    @Joanne: NewTV has put up the whole four!!!! hours of the School Committee except for 4 minutes that was missed. I was also watching at 10pm, and couldn’t believe they cut away. Here is the link:
    Two notes: It doesn’t start until about 11 minutes in, so there is no audio or video until then.
    I couldn’t figure out how to fast forward to hour #3, so I just let it run in the background and then watched the last hour and ten minutes.

  25. Jane permalink
    June 14, 2013 09:13 PM

    I said that kids and young adults talk a lot about being “stressed” and what that means is very unclear to me. As for the change in start time, I said that it’s complicated and that student/parent opinions on this issue – like every other issue – may differ for a variety of reasons. Saying that reasonable people can disagree about an issue in no way implies that it isn’t worthy of being addressed.

    A number of years ago, a vocal group of parents wanted to get rid of February vacation, so the SC developed a calendar eliminating it. Suddenly the less vocal parents and HS students came out of the woodwork and barraged the SC with a different point of view and the SC members realized that the issue was more complex that it first appeared.

    You are one person with strong opinions on a number of issues. Other people may not express an opposing view publicly, but they may feel just as strongly as you do. The SC and school system has a responsibility to listen to everyone.

  26. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 09:48 PM

    Jane– Yes, it is my opinion that the two high schools should start later in the morning. Yes, others may have a different opinion. But the FACT is that sleep deprivation contributes to stress and other health issues. So you can say the School Committee is “thoughtful and thorough,” but that means nothing without action. Sure, they have as you said, “a responsibility to listen to everyone.” But they also have a responsibility to fix what the majority of them have previously acknowledged as a problem. Particularly when there are health related consequences.

  27. June 14, 2013 10:48 PM

    @Joanne: I’ve acknowledged that I’m not going to answer your question and explained why. But you continue to ignore my question or explain why you won’t answer. So I’ll try again…

    We know that you respect and admire Geoff Epstein. However, Geoff doesn’t appear to share your view that he is the only “forward thinker” on the school committee. Is he mistaken?

  28. June 14, 2013 11:06 PM

    You may be inclined to credit elected officials for discussions that they may or may not have had. I judge elected officials on what they do or do not accomplish.

    So Mike, is every member of the Congress to blame for the fact that six months after Newtown we have yet to “accomplish” any meaningful gun legislation? Is that, for example, Joe Kennedy’s or Elizabeth Warren’s fault?

  29. Mike Striar permalink
    June 14, 2013 11:26 PM

    Oh my, Greg. That’s such an absurd analogy. But I’ll answer you anyway. YES. Elizabeth Warren is 1/100 responsible, and Joe Kennedy is 1/435 responsible. Anymore ridiculous questions?

  30. Lucia permalink
    June 15, 2013 11:36 AM

    Until I had kids I high school, I thought start times was a minor issue. Now I think Mike is 100% right – it affects the kids’ academically and physically and is a solvable problem. Unfortunately, most parents don’t realize the impact of early start times until their kids get into High School.

  31. Dan Fahey permalink
    June 15, 2013 01:53 PM

    Perhaps someone from NPS or the SC can address what if anything was discussed around the “later start time issue.”

    I certainly believe a strong effort to REVIEW this issue is in order, but I’m opposed to assuming we know the one true answer to this.

  32. Mike Striar permalink
    June 15, 2013 03:02 PM

    I’m not assuming anything, Dan. There have been numerous studies that have indicated the need for teens to get more sleep, and the benefits of starting the high school day a little later. In response to those studies, many schools shifted to later start times years ago. I’ve followed this issue for a decade, and never seen a single study that contradicts the health and performance benefits of starting later. A majority of the SC agreed when they were running for election, but have failed to take action while in office. Frankly, I don’t like to be bullshitted, but that’s exactly what happened. Now that we have another election coming up, I’m going to take a much more aggressive approach this time around.

  33. Kim permalink
    June 15, 2013 03:12 PM

    I still don’t think kids are drinking for stress relief. I think they do it because it’s new and fun to them. I don’t think they are saying after a day of school, ‘I need a drink.’

  34. Tom Sheff permalink
    June 15, 2013 08:06 PM

    Mike, you’re 100% correct on this issue. Keep pushing for a solution. The only two downsides I see in moving the start time up later is that the closer you get to 9 am, the closer you get to parents who have to drive their kids into school (cause they can’t afford the bus fee) some of them have to get to work by 9 am as well. Also, the only other downside to moving the start time is that we have to give the kids a certain amount of class time, if we move the start up time by an hour, we have to finish school later by an hour and it may run into sports and after school events. This should be a solvable problem and I’m with you on this one, buddy. There’s a solution if we look hard enough.

  35. Barry Cohen permalink
    June 15, 2013 09:30 PM

    Why don’t the kids go to sleep a little earlier? There are only 24 hours in a day, no matter when you say it starts and ends. Starting and ending school later may create a whole host of other scheduling conflicts, unless you end school at the same time and then the kids just have a shorter school day.

  36. Dan Fahey permalink
    June 16, 2013 08:21 PM

    Mike, it does seem that you are assuming that because SOME districted have changed policy that all districts can and should. To me, that’s not self-0evident.

    BTW, I actually agree with you conceptually that this approach has merit, but I also see there are many roadblocks that likely exist within NPS that might preclude the change you want. And I’m not willing to assume that the SC should just mandate a change.

  37. Mike Striar permalink
    June 17, 2013 12:54 AM

    Dan– You’re missing my point. I’m not assuming Newton should change high school start times because other districts have done that. I’m suggesting that every study I’ve seen for the past decade has indicated later start times are beneficial to teens. The fact that the Newton School Committee has not addressed this issue, reflects poorly on them.

    I think we all have to acknowledge something, Dan. Something broader than an issue with high school start times. As a society and as a community, we put a tremendous amount of stress on our kids. This is clearly reflected by the fact that 3/4 of the Newton high schoolers responding to the survey indicated they are experiencing stress. Nearly 25% are experiencing a great deal of stress. Systemically, we have a chance to mitigate some of that stress by starting high school a little later. That change would have an immediate impact on the day-to-day quality of life for several thousand students. This is not a minor issue. It’s something that should have been addressed years ago.

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