According to a statewide survey of drug and alcohol use taken last April by eighth-graders in Oak Park School District 97, more than 40 percent said they drank alcohol with their parents’ permission within the last year.

Approximately 486 sixth-graders and 494 eight-graders in D97 took the Illinois Youth Survey last spring, which is administered statewide every two years by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Board of Education. 

Sixth- and eighth-grade students take the survey, as do sophomores and seniors, in Illinois school districts.

In D97, the survey shows that the majority of students who participated reported no substance use of any kind. For those that did, the overall results showed relatively low percentages of students reporting any use. Asked whether they were supplied alcohol by their parents in the last year, 44 percent of eighth-graders said they were. When asked if they stole or took alcohol without permission, 33 percent of the students said they did.

The alcohol consisted of wine, beer or liquor, according to the students’ responses. 

 D97 spokesperson Chris Jasculca said the district is still analyzing its data but is hopeful the information will lead to productive conversations about issues impacting students’ health and safety.  

The district will have a formal presentation of its results next month at an upcoming school board meeting. The survey was briefly discussed by the board at its Nov. 18, session though no data was publicly presented at that meeting. 

Concerning access to alcohol from “social sources” other than parents, 16 percent of students said they got it from a friend, 21 percent said from a party, and 11 percent said from an older brother or sister. Three percent said they gave money to a stranger to buy it for them.

Board member Peter Traczyk expressed surprise at the number of eighth-graders who reported access to alcohol in their homes. Traczyk said the parent group IMPACT was also aware of these results, and he and the district welcomed their continued participation in the schools. Formed in 2010, IMPACT includes parents and community members from the two villages. Since forming, the anti-substance abuse organization has hosted parent and student cafes, among other programs, alerting families to the dangers of drinking and drugs.

“From IMPACT’s perspective, these survey results motivate us as a coalition to work toward growing and strengthening our relationships with all community stakeholders,” said Ron Orzel, the organization’s president Monday. 

Concerning access to cigarettes in the last year, 20 percent of D97 eighth-graders said their parents gave it to them; 73 percent got them from a friend and 47 percent said they paid a stranger to buy it for them. Thirteen percent said an older brother or sister gave it to them. Twenty percent reported taking them from home without their parents’ permission, and 13 percent said they took them from a store. 

Overall, 18 percent of sixth-graders and 30 percent of eighth-graders reported using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana in the past year. Overall results were also relatively low in the 2012 survey for D97 middle-schoolers. That was the first year the younger student population participated in the Illinois Youth Survey, which has been given biennially since 1990. 

A large majority of D97 middle-schoolers said they did not smoke or drink at all in the last year.

“I’m not surprised by the 2014 IYS numbers. Being familiar with the 2012 numbers, I think these numbers are encouraging in some areas, especially alcohol usage,” Orzel said. He added that, overall, the numbers are promising in terms of students reporting it’s more difficult to get alcohol in social situations, and they perceive an overall risk in use. 

“In terms of the marijuana numbers, a number of factors play into the students’ perception, but the increased language around marijuana being legalized might play into their ideas that, since it’s legal, it can’t be that bad,” Orzel said.

2014 Illinois Youth Survey Results – D97

The numbers

Participating D97 students

  • 6th graders – 486 (608 enrolled overall)
  • 8th graders – 494 (644 enrolled overall)

Avg. age of participants

  • 6th graders – 11.5
  • 8th graders – 13.5 

Gender 

  • 6th graders – 50 percent male, 50 percent female 
  • 8th graders – 48 percent male, 52 percent female

Courtesy 2014 Youth Survey Report for Oak Park District 97, available at OakPark.com

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