The majority of River Forest’s sixth and eighth graders said they stay away from harmful substances, but alcohol and marijuana appear to be the most popular choices of the ones who don’t, according to results from a January survey.

Close to 40 percent of the village’s 123 eighth graders—and less than half of that percentage of the 138 sixth graders—say they’ve consumed alcohol in the past year, the students said on the Illinois Youth Survey.

The survey is offered biannually to sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth graders and asks about a variety of health and social indicators like substance use, nutrition and fitness, violence, bullying and perceptions of school climate, according to a statement from District 90. Results from Oak Park and River Forest High School and District 97 were not available.

Alcohol was the most common substance used. According to the survey, 39 percent of eighth graders and 18 percent of sixth graders used a substance in the past year. Almost all of those students—38 percent of eighth graders and 16 percent of sixth graders—drank alcohol. No sixth graders reported smoking marijuana, but 11 percent of eighth graders said they did it in the past year and five percent said they did in the past month. Also in the past month, 21 percent of eighth graders and eight percent of sixth graders said they drank alcohol.

But the majority of students in both grades said their parents have talked to them in the past year about not using alcohol or marijuana. Less than half the students in both grades said the same about tobacco. The majority also said their parents thought it would be “very wrong” for them to use any of those substances.

D90 Superintendent Ed Condon said it’s important that students are generally making good decisions, but “in our eyes, any instance of children experimenting is certainly a cause for concern.” He said the need continues for initiatives like a workshop with speakers from Sarah’s Inn, a presentation by OPRF graduates as part of a drug education group, and a multimedia presentation on bullying.

Condon said he was also encouraged by the survey results that showed “students clearly don’t want to let their parents down.”

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