California Healthy Kids Survey data shows significant drop in vaping at PHS/MHS

PUSD’s Director of Instructional Technology Stephanie Griffin presented the results of the Spring 2023 California Healthy Kids Survey to the Board of Education on Oct. 25. The anonymous survey seeks to measure school climate and is administered every year in February or March to grades 5 – 12. Every school district in California has been required to conduct a climate survey in order to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, Title IV. Districts like Piedmont that receive Tobacco-Use Prevention Education (TUPE) funding are required to conduct the survey.

Significant overall drop in vaping, tobacco use among high school students

Griffin’s presentation on Wednesday did not break out results by grade, but overall the number of students reporting they had used vaping products has dropped since 2022:

The drop represents a significant change from just four years ago when e-cigarettes became popular among Piedmont students (and students nationwide).

School Board member Ruchi Medhekar praised MHS, which saw the largest drop in vaping and tobacco usage, for making tobacco education a priority.

Responses to a 2019-2020 California Healthy Kids Survey showed that 13% of ninth grade Piedmont students, 16% of 10th graders, 24% of 11th graders and 34% of 12th grade Piedmont students reported they had used vape products at least four times.

Vaping had become so widespread at that time that the Piedmont Police Department used a California Department of Justice Tobacco Grant to fill the role of a “juvenile officer,” whose mission was narrowly focused on helping fight tobacco use, drug use, and vaping by local school students. Officer Nicole Casalnuovo filled that position until late 2021, when Officer Hugo Diaz moved into that role. Some of the police grant money was used to install vape sensors in Piedmont schools. (Griffin told the Board in an aside that Facilities Director Pete Palmer noted that “the number of times the vape detectors have gone off in the last year have gone down quite a bit.”)

In September 2022 the city council banned the sale of flavored tobacco products within city limits.

(A new docuseries on Netflix about the e-cigarette company Juul examines how that company marketed their products to teens.)

Are the kids alright?

Griffin said PUSD also uses the survey results to measure the district’s LCAP progress, belonging/DEI work, and what Griffin called “Are the Kids AlRight” — a catchall term that measures chronic sadness or stress.

According to the survey results, Piedmont students overall felt pretty good on campus. Griffin noted that while the numbers have mostly improved since 2019, the district has a goal of hitting 85% or higher o all metrics.

In other positive news, Griffin also noted that the district’s efforts to update curriculum in recent years has improved responses to the following question:

Griffin noted that fewer students overall were reporting feelings of chronic sadness, a trend she marked up to a concerted effort by the district to address student mental health that predated the pandemic. (The 2020 survey was administered before the school shutdown in March 2020; the blue line in the charts below represents the state average.)

However, Griffin said “the numbers look like they are going in the right direction, but if you dig down there are differences in gender.” Far more female students report higher levels of chronic sadness and hopelessness than their male counterparts. Griffin shared statewide data from 2019-2021 and said the rates applied to Piedmont as well. (The 2023 survey data will be available to the public in November HERE.)

“Every year we’ve reviewed this data it’s been the same, the girls have been struggling.” said School Board member Cory Smegal, noting that prior to the pandemic, MHS under Principal Shannon Fierro has tried ways to address the disparity by hosting lunchtime gatherings at lunch, but the effects of those efforts are unknown.

Public results of the survey from previous years are available HERE. The 2023 survey results for all school districts will be posted there in November.

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