NAUGATUCK — A survey to gauge the attitudes and behaviors of borough students on a variety of topics will be given this year.
The Board of Education voted in favor last week of administering an anonymous “Attitudes and Behaviors” survey to students in grades seven through 12. The survey will be conducted by the Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council.
The survey, which will be administered before the end of the current school year, consists of 160 questions on a variety of topics, including sex as well as drug and alcohol use.
“I’ve been in many districts that have conducted these surveys over the years and I’ve found the information is helpful to a school district, it’s helpful to a community, it’s helpful to all of the partners that are attempting to deal with youth behavior, prevention of risky behavior, prevention of substance abuse and alcohol abuse,” Interim Superintendent of Schools John Connelly said.
Connelly said every parent of a student taking part in the survey would be notified about the survey before it’s administered and copies of the surveys will be made available to parents in the schools’ offices. While the survey has the potential to be given to all students in those grades, parents who would rather not have their child take the survey can opt out, according to officials.
“I feel it is age appropriate. I find that sometimes you might find some people saying that asking questions of this nature to a seventh-grader or eighth-grader might be pushing the envelope. If parents feel the questions might be inappropriate to that age group they certainly have the ability to opt out,” Connelly said.
Sandra Heller, a member of the Advisory Board for Youth and Family Services, said the information from the surveys would be used to help improve the borough for the youth by providing information on which programs are most needed.
“It’s something everybody in the community can understand and work with,” Heller said. “It really has the ability to be a community building project in addition to just a survey.”
Connelly said the results of the surveys would be reported to the Board of Education, Youth Service, the Youth Leadership Council, the police department, and any other organization in the borough that would benefit from the results.
Connelly said the survey will show the students’ attitude towards school, if they view school as a positive place, and if they feel safe while at school.
“I think the results we get from this will be invaluable,” Connelly said. “If we found, for instance, that a whole group of students didn’t feel safe at school or felt alienated from school, that then ought to spur us into action to address some of those issues.”
Connelly said that the survey, which takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete, would likely be administered to the high school and middle school at the same time.
“There are very specific instructions for administrators. They aren’t just going to hand it out and say ‘Do it.’ It is a very, very structured activity,” Connelly said.
The results from the survey would be available by the beginning of the next school year, Connelly said.
School board member Dorothy Neth-Kunin felt the results from the survey could be very useful to the district.
“The reports will give us some kind of idea of what our youth are thinking, what we can do to help move them forward, and what we can do to grow leaders in the community.
If the survey goes through the way it’s expected, and we get a fair share of participation, I think it will give us some pretty good results,” Neth-Kunin said.
This is not the first time the district has tried to administer such a survey.
Connelly said a similar survey was administered four years ago. However, it wasn’t administered with the same safe guards, such as parents being able to opt out, and some students were even taking the survey home to do. This, coupled with the fact that it was administered to sixth-graders as well, made the district choose to discard the results.
According to the Republican American, a similar survey that had been proposed in Litchfield this year drew concern from some parents over the content.
A similar survey was conducted in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last May. The survey measured developmental assets. The results showed both positives and negatives. The results included 75 percent of youth surveyed felt their family life provides a high level of love and support, while 76 percent were optimistic about their future. Just 39 percent of the students surveyed in Region 16 felt it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs, according to the survey.
Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, who sits on the school board, said he fully supports the survey even though it covered difficult topics.
“Unfortunately they are topics that confront our students whether we want to talk about them or not,” Mezzo said.