Chilliwack students will participate in adolescent health survey

Chilliwack board of education approved a motion to participate in next year's McCreary Adolescent Health Survey.

After years of declining to participate in an adolescent health survey, Chilliwack’s board of education has relented – but not without opposition.

The board of education approved a motion to participate in the McCreary Centre Adolescent Health Survey at Tuesday night’s board meeting. The only two trustees in opposition were Heather Maahs and Martha Wiens.

Maahs said she still was not comfortable subjecting Chilliwack’s “innocence” to questions relating to sexual orientation, drugs and alcohol use.

“I don’t believe this would be in the best interest of students,” said Maahs. “I feel it would be exploitive for us to subject the students and their innocence to a survey like this.”

The McCreary Adolescent Health Survey is an anonymous pen-and-paper survey questioning youth in Grades 7-12 about physical and emotional health, ranging in areas of sex, drugs, alcohol and cigarette use, as well as mental health issues.

Every four years the survey is conducted by the McCreary Centre Society, a non-profit, non-government agency.

Chilliwack did not participate in the 2003 or 2008 surveys.

Maahs and Wiens also had concerns with not seeing the survey beforehand, and were not satisfied with a sampling of questions that were provided in the board meeting agenda.

However, other trustees felt the benefits of the survey far outweighed the concerns.

Trustee Walt Krahn felt the survey is an opportunity to monitor the health and wellness of all youth in the  district and to formulate specific programs based on the survey’s results.

Trustee Barry Neufeld said local agencies like Youth Services are currently missing out on funding for Chilliwack’s vulnerable youth because they don’t have accurate information to provide – information that could be obtained through the adolescent health survey.

“Having worked with at-risk students for many years, I know how important it is to have accurate information,” said Neufeld.

The survey was approved with the condition of every student requiring parental consent before writing.

District Parents’ Advisory Council treasurer Don Davis was pleased with the decision. A parent of two teenagers, Davis believes the survey would uncover the truths for many of Chilliwack’s youth.

“I think that we don’t know enough of what’s going on with our students,” said Davis. “Other school districts have benefitted by participating in this survey. I think it was time we stepped up.”

The survey will be conducted by a public health nurse in 2013.

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