Five parent assemblies have been scheduled in the Van Buren Public Schools to discuss the unsettling results of a recent online student survey that reveals sex habits, alcohol and drug use, and suicidal thoughts.
Kim Nofz, RN, who with Cathy Bandy runs the district’s Parent Involvement Committee, gave a report at Monday’s School Board meeting on the results of the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPHY) survey given to students in grades 7, 9, and 11.
Nofz said the survey, which is done anonymously and voluntarily, provides data on local student risk behaviors, including substance use, violence, physical activity, nutrition, sexual behavior, and emotional health.
She said 361 seventh graders and 535 ninth and 11th graders took part in the survey, which took up to 40 minutes to complete.
She said the assemblies for parents have been set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18, Jan. 13, Feb. 10, March 10, and May 12 at locations yet to be determined.
The assemblies will be to give parents information and tools to address the problems.
“We’re not going to fix it,” Nofz stated, but gave a list of ways to address the situation, including teaching refusal skills to students, targeting troubled teens by using trained counselors in small groups, bringing in experts, and identifying community resources.
Nofz said students in the middle school said their first alcoholic drink was at age 10.5; with the high schoolers saying their first drinks were at age 13.
Those and other figures led board members to note that the students are seemingly taking these risky behaviors younger each year.
When discussing the sexual intercourse answers, Nofz reported 56.5% of the high school students polled reported ever having had sexual intercourse. Seventh graders reported 15.2% of them having had intercourse.
She said the best birth control methods should be taught since sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise.
Nofz said she recently found the latest figures for when kids reach sexual maturity and said it was eight years old. She suggested sex education may have to be done earlier in the schools, although the parents should be giving information to their children.
Board Trustee Brenda McClanahan said when she was substitute teaching in the Van Buren Schools years earlier, she was informed by other teachers of a five-year-old girl who acted out sexually and did inappropriate sexual touching. McClanahan said the girl obviously learned this from a home situation.
Nofz said she didn’t want to shock the board members, but they needed to know what’s going on so problems can be addressed and the children can be helped.
“The whole world is changing and we have to adapt…” McClanahan said.
No action was taken on the report, which was for information only and left board members shaking their heads in dismay.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:
* Discussed the Oct. 6 visitation of 17 teachers/staff members, board members, and parents to study Decatur New Tech Academy in Illinois. The district is considering adding a school within a school, such as the New Tech model, for the new BHS. This is the second visit to a New Tech location for a group from Van Buren Schools, which is paid through a grant;
* Discussed how to keep parents abreast of changing safety situations abroad for the April 21 BHS Cultural Field Trip to France, Spain, and Germany. More information will be presented to the board at its Oct. 25 meeting on what plan will be followed while paying attention U.S. government travel alerts having to do with terrorism and political unrest. “This may go away or it could go the other way,” said Board President David Peer, referring to the most recent government alert;
* Set a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, at the administration building to review the budget;
* Approved minutes of a special Sept. 29 meeting for a disciplinary hearing held in public, not closed session, because the student and his parents did not appear. The BHS student was permanently expelled for violation of various laws, rules, and code of conduct;
* Approved the Oct. 13 termination date of Angela Fielder after 12 years of service for personal reasons. She had been executive secretary in personnel;
* Approved the hiring of Pamela Johnson as executive secretary of personnel in the administration building. Linda Cobb said she has nothing against Johnson, but the job should have been posted so others could apply. Supt. Tom Riutta and Personnel Director Neil Hartman said Johnson has spent nine years with the school district, had been in that position before and they felt very fortunate to have such an experienced person in place, since Hartman is working only three days a week. Johnson’s position is at-will and non-unionized;
* Approved the hiring of teachers Chelsea Harris and Margaret Felder to teach English at BHS each with a salary of $35,457; Amber Berryman, BHS Transition Specialist at $28.40/hr.; Tamara Mida, teacher at Rawsonville, $35,457; Patricia Jenkins, special education/BHS, $39,365. Also officially hired was Jeff Glombowski, assistant principal at BHS at a salary of $80,100. Glombowski’s selection had been announced at a previous meeting