Students say guns available, survey finds

Coeur d’Alene area teenagers are tired of moving and changing schools, believe handguns and drugs are easily accessible and want more from schools than assessment tests, a recent survey shows.

The survey also indicates that many kids worry about fighting in their families and society’s apparent fascination with anti-social behavior.

“The handgun news was a big surprise and so was the transition stuff,” said Amy Bartoo, a volunteer with the Kootenai Alliance for Children and Families. The survey was part of a program the alliance commissioned from Channing Bete Co., a Seattle business that specializes in community improvement.

The alliance contacted Channing Bete two years ago to help formulate a plan to strengthen Kootenai County’s families as the area grows. That process involves identifying risks facing children and existing services that address those risks, said Callie Ketner, alliance director.

Last November, Channing Bete surveyed 400 ninth- and 12th-graders in the Coeur d’Alene School District. The alliance invited all Kootenai County school districts to participate. Coeur d’Alene was the only volunteer.

The survey was based on research from the University of Washington, said Channing Bete project consultant Jan Sprow. About 286,000 students in ninth- and 12th-grades throughout the nation have taken the same survey, she said.

Kids were asked about the makeup of their families, education of their parents and where they live. They were asked if they like or dislike their neighborhoods and if crime and drug-selling, fights, graffiti and abandoned buildings describe their neighborhoods.

The survey covered family strife, family drug problems and attitudes toward drug and alcohol use. It asked if kids feel close to their parents and if school is important, enjoyable and challenging. Kids reported their suspensions, arrests and fights and if they have access to handguns.

The results weren’t demoralizing but pointed to some necessary changes. Sherry Wong, Channing Bete’s director of training, said the survey provides Coeur d’Alene-specific information that is vital to an effective improvement plan for this area.

The overall risks Coeur d’Alene teens believe they face rate slightly below the national average of all teens surveyed. Coeur d’Alene teens showed the greatest dissatisfaction with their family transience and how often they change schools.

Alcohol is the biggest substance abuse problem. Forty-five percent of surveyed kids responded that they binge-drank – at least five drinks during one episode – within 30 days of the survey. Seventy-one percent admitted they had drunk alcohol sometime during their lives. Nearly 17 percent reported being drunk at school.

Nearly 42 percent reported that they smoke or have smoked, and 35 percent admitted using marijuana at some point in their lives. Methamphetamine use was lower than 2 percent, but 5 percent of the students reported using cocaine and nearly 4 percent reported they’d tried cocaine.

Sprow explained the survey results to about 50 educators, social workers, students, representatives of law enforcement and concerned citizens Tuesday. Bartoo said she was disappointed no representatives of the real estate industry, development sector or chambers of commerce attended.

“One reason we got everyone here is to factor in the human element to all this growth,” she said.

Participants created a task force to study which community services address the risks the survey showed. The task force will work on strengthening services Coeur d’Alene already has before proposing new ones, Ketner said.

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