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Instead of surveying sixth-, ninth- and 12th-graders, the state surveyed fifth-, eighth-, ninth- and 11th-graders last spring, in part to capture students in grade school and avoid seniors who are already looking toward graduation or college.
Still, initial analysis suggests the change in methodology didn’t affect the outcome, Oehrlein said.
Once a survey primarily about risky behaviors such as binge drinking, the current survey also examines how students perceive themselves and their self-worth. Among the ninth-graders, 78 percent of males and 69 percent of females said they often or always felt in control of their lives. And 82 percent of boys and 91 percent of girls in that grade said they are accepting of people who are different.
Questions touched on sex
Among high school juniors who completed the survey last spring, 37 percent of males and 38 percent of females said they had ever had sex. Both are lower than the responses given in 2010 by high school seniors, though the change in grades surveyed make comparisons somewhat unreliable.
Of those who were sexually active in 2013, nearly 80 percent indicated they used condoms, birth control pills or other recognized forms of birth control. Of those who weren’t having sex, many simply said they didn’t want to have sex or felt it wasn’t appropriate at their age. Parental or religious objections weren’t mentioned as often in 2013 as they were in 2010.
Lu, Highland Park’s senior class president, said that reflects efforts to educate today’s students about setting personal goals and understanding how choices might affect those goals. Unprotected sex would be a particularly reckless decision, the honors student said.
“I’ve sacrificed way too many sleepless nights to risk it all away,” he said.
Three of the five Highland students have jobs, and four participate in sports. Getting home at 10 p.m. — then starting homework — is fairly common, they said. Their experiences were reflected in the survey responses, which showed a third of 11th-grade males and nearly half of females studying at least two hours per night, a quarter of them working 11 or more hours per week, and a third of them participating in school sports at least five days per week.
Television viewing appears on the decline, but not texting. Half of male 11th-graders and 64 percent of female 11th-graders estimated they spent more than two hours per day texting.
“I love being busy,” said Highland Park senior Tarik Kidane, who works at a sandwich shop and runs cross country and track. “If I have a few hours of free time, it’s like ‘Wow, what do I do?’ ”
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744