Grant money and mental health may be affected by too few students participating in the survey that measures risky teen behavior in Summit County
Of the approximate 8,000 students in Summit County, only 800 filled out the anonymous, voluntary survey. The last two times Summit County schools administered what’s called the SHARP survey, in 2017 and 2019, roughly 1300 students filled it out. It asks questions about substance use, smoking, vaping, using seat belts, texting while driving, perceptions of school, neighborhood and community safety, access to guns and ammunition, mental health, feelings of isolation, and bullying.
The 2021 data is not valid because not enough kids responded, according to Summit County Director of Behavioral Health Prevention Pamella Bello. She said the low responses skew the information from those who did respond. The Summit County School Districts have not released information about the survey for this report. Bello said they do not know why so few Summit County students participated this year.
"When I looked at it, and I was looking at past 30-day use of alcohol, our rates went down half from what it was in 2019. All the nonprofits, we are all working towards many of these same goals. And we are working hard on all these, but it is impossible. Rates don't go in two years in half."
The survey is approved by the Utah Legislature and State Board of Education. Students in North Summit, South Summit, and Park City School districts took the survey. Park City Day School and the Weilenman School of Discovery also participated.
The survey administrator is now working to figure out if some of the data is usable – for example, if a high enough percentage of students at a particular campus took it, the results might be of some value to that campus.
"When we looked at different school districts, we'll have to figure it out when that data is available for everybody to look at. If there is a specific school district that maybe has less people participate participating than ours for right now, this data is not valid. And I'm also talking to Bach Harrison to figure out how can we have valid data.”
Bello hopes that turns out to be the case. She said students could ultimately suffer without current relevant information from the survey helping guide their wellness and mental health programs.
In addition, she said school districts could lose out on grants, and state and federal funding, because they don't have accurate information about the risks students are facing.
School districts can add extra questions targeting issues they think might be important. For example, this year, Bello said her department included a question about sleep and its impact on mental health.
"So, if the school district is going through something in particular, they always have the option of also getting specific questions. And we also asked, I pay for a SHARP survey that is for Latinos. And so, we can compare also between different races what's happening, but obviously this year, we don't have good data. So, we probably won't get that for now."
She said the survey administrator is still evaluating the sample size and responses compared to 2019 results to determine if any of the data is valid.