State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Monday that new survey information about the health behavior of high-school students shows they are drinking less and using less tobacco.

Fewer high school students reported being bullied electronically or personally at school in the survey, which was taken last spring. Fewer young people neglected to buckle up when riding in vehicles, the survey said. “These trends are moving in the right direction and are things we can and should celebrate,” Baesler said.

“But an increased percentage of students who had extended periods of feeling sad or hopeless, seriously considered suicide, or the 13% of the survey’s respondents who had attempted suicide should cause us all to be gravely concerned,” Baesler said.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was developed in 1990 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is given in the spring of odd-numbered years to students in grades 7-8 and 9-12. Different questions are asked of middle school and high school students. Students choose whether to take the survey, and results are anonymous.

Baesler said she is pleased the Department of Public Instruction is partnering closely with the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to address behavioral health concerns raised by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. North Dakota’s schools, the Legislature, the NDDPI, the Department of Human Services have strengthened the state’s focus on behavioral health services for students, Baesler said.

State law requires teachers and administrators to have at least eight hours of professional development every two years on behavioral health, including training in suicide prevention and how to deal with instances of bullying.

Earlier this year, lawmakers extended the reach of a law intended to discourage bullying, and approved an administrative reorganization of the Department of Human Services’ regional centers to improve the availability of services for students.

“We recognize that behavioral health is a major factor in students’ ability to learn,” Baesler said Monday. “We must continue to work to make sure that services are available to students and families who need them.”

The complete survey results can be found here: Grades 9-12 and Grades 7-8

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