Monday, May 08, 2000

Survey: Covington students say drugs, gangs are problems

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Marijuana is more readily available than alcohol, according to Holmes High School 10th- and 12th-graders who completed a student survey.

        A majority of 1,153 sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders also said drug use and gangs are a problem at their school. Many of the students surveyed said they have tried cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.

        The numbers increase as students get older. And Covington's figures exceed those statewide.

        Conducted in October, the survey is the first step in the district's attempt to implement more community-based substance abuse prevention programs.

        Janice Wilkerson, pro gram director, said the data provide the most comprehensive information on substance use the district has ever collected.

        “The numbers are definitely much higher than you'd like to see,” Ms. Wilkerson said. “But we're not the only ones in the boat saying, "Oh my gosh, we have a problem.'”

        There are 20 Kentucky school districts sharing $9 million to develop three-year programs on substance abuse prevention — inside the classroom and inside neighborhoods.

        Covington is the only Northern Kentucky school district to participate in the Governor's Kentucky Incentives for Prevention Project. Covington received $125,000 for this year.

        The survey will be taken each year to track changes in students' behavior.

        A community partnership of residents and area representatives meet monthly to develop long-range plans for preventing and reducing youth substance abuse.

        Linda Verst, a member who works for Kenton County Schools, said the survey is a necessary step.

        “This breaks the denial,” she said. “It may be alarming. It may be upsetting, but you don't know what's out there if you don't look.”


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