Nurse Leader at Mansfield Public Schools Patricia Harrison presented the results of a survey four years in the making to the school committee on Tuesday called Communities that Care.
The survey went over health concerns of students in three grades, six, eight and ten, (about 300 volunteers in each grade) and asked them questions about their tobacco, alcohol and marijuana usage.
The students volunteered for the survey, and were issued a follow up survey the next year to compare results.
While Mansfield students were below the national average in most categories (see complete survey to right), there were some issues that were not completely clear.
The survey asked students if that had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, but not about general tobacco use.
“Smokeless tobacco is an epidemic,” Harrison said. “How it’s disguised; it’s not just chewing tobacco anymore. I have plans … to give different demonstrations to school nurses, administrators, etc.”
Harrison related experiences with students and a Swedish style of smokeless tobacco called snus. The tobacco is finely ground and placed in a small bag similar to a tea bag. Many school administrators, teachers, nurses, etc., may not be familiar with the product. Harrison said they might even find evidence of use and not realize it.
“The high school nurses were very enlightened by things this had shown them that they had seen in the past year and they did not know it was smokeless [tobacco],” she said.
One statistic that might be cause for some concern is that many of Mansfield’s sophomores in 2011 answered on the survey that they had used marijuana in the past 30 days from the time of the survey. At 29.7 percent, Mansfield was almost double the national average. Harrison pointed out though that, since the decriminalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, survey results in the state are usually higher than the national average.
“We all have to remember that we are dealing with students who are taking the survey voluntarily,” Hodges said. “They report as accurately as they choose to report at that particular time. We hope that they report accurately to assist us in this and that may not always be the case.”