Idaho high school students reported less bullying, cigarette smoking and sexual activity in the State Department of Education’s biannual youth risk behavior survey. But teens reported increased e-cigarette use, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
The survey data showed 21 percent of students reported they were bullied in 2019 and 17 percent reported online bullying, both of which are 10-year lows. Five percent of students said they smoked cigarettes, down from the 14.5 percent in 2009. Only 23 percent of students said they were sexually active, the lowest number since the question was introduced six years ago.
Conversely, more students than ever before in the past decade reported feeling sad or hopeless, 39 percent to be exact. The number of students who said they seriously considered suicide remained at 22 percent, the same as 2017 and the highest in 10 years. As for e-cigarettes, vaping use rose to 21.5 percent, up from the 14 percent reported in 2017 but down from 25 percent in 2015, according to the report.
Lani Rembelski, Challis schools superintendent, said similar trends are happening at the Challis High School, especially related to vaping.
“Vaping is something we’re becoming more aware of,” she said. “We hear all the time from kids ‘this person started vaping or that person started.’ It’s obviously become more popular.”
Rembelski said it’s hard to track the number of students who vape at the high school because administrators can only track what gets reported. Rembelski said she sees it as a trend kids are into for the moment.
“I hope it isn’t permanent and I hope it’s something that kids will grow out of,” said Rembelski.
Similarly, she said, when tracking bullying, not all instances are discovered. In Challis, online bullying is more common and usually occurs outside of school, so teachers and staff collect evidence through word-of-mouth as opposed to official reports.
“When we find evidence, we take action,” said Rembelski.
The superintendent said the information in the state survey will be used along with data gathered within the district to come up with policies and procedures to protect students and create a better learning environment.
“It lets us know what to look out for,” said Rembelski.