By Monica Cheng
In the middle of filling out the annual drug survey sponsored by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) as a freshman last year, sophomore Raven Peterson said she had a thought cross her mind; the drug survey was exceedingly long and repetitive, with its seemingly endless list of multiple-choice questions asking her whether she had ever used drugs or smoked a cigarette.
As a healthy 15-year-old with no inclination to try drugs of any sort in the near future, Peterson said she felt that the drug surveys were getting nowhere by continuing to ask variants of what seemed to be the same or very similar questions.
But that, according to CHS social worker Jane Wildman, who helps administer the surveys, is somewhat by design. Although some have questioned the legitimacy of drug surveys due to the possibility that not all students may answer the questions truthfully, Wildman said she is confident that the surveys are accurate.
“The IPRC knows how to put together a survey that asks a question in a certain way or in a different way twice,” Wildman said, “so they can see if there’s a consistency in the results. The computer will kick out the extremes when they feel that someone is lying.”
According to Wildman, these anonymous, multiple-choice surveys are offered to selected schools around the state every year to determine whether students have been involved with drugs. This year, the surveys will be handed out to students to take on Feb. 25 during the first session of SRT.
“In our district, (drug surveys) are used to help write grants for funding, which goes to any sort of prevention of at-risk behaviors, mainly drugs and alcohol,” Wildman said.
Although it may be easy to put off drug surveys as something rather insignificant, Peterson said she realizes the importance of drug surveys and also believes honesty is an important factor to any effective survey.
Austin Rader, LifeLines president and senior, has similar views as Peterson and said drug surveys play an important role in the school and community in helping them become aware of the choices their students are making.
“Drug surveys help the school and community realize what kind of priorities they need to be making in their programs,” Rader said. “They also give students a chance to realize and to see all that they’ve done. Sometimes, (students) may not realize the choices that they’re making until they see it on paper.”
Still, according to Rader, despite of the good intentions and anonymous aspect of the drug survey, however, some students may still feel the need to lie, perhaps to protect their identity from the school or police.
Peterson said, “I know a lot of people who lie (on the drug survey) and say they do drugs so they can skew the results and make the school look bad.Basically, they’re just trying to be funny, but there’s really nothing all that funny about lying.”
However, large-scale misrepresentation may backfire on students. For example, if the drug surveys were to show an overwhelming number of drug participants, Wildman said, health classes may be instructed to focus more on alcohol and other abusive substances.
“In the past, for example, juniors have had a speaker come in to talk about alcohol and drunk driving as well as their effects,” Wildman said.
The speaker this year purposely wore shorts and a tank top so the students could see that one of her arms were amputated and the rest of her body was covered in scars from the car accident.
“Obviously, there’s going to be a margin of error (on the drug surveys) but for the most part, you can still use them to have an accurate look at the school,” Peterson said.
Wildman said, “They’ve gotten it down to a fine science, though, so it doesn’t really make a difference if people lie or not. But we want the truth because it’s very important for us to know what’s going on (around the school).”