Mahtomedi High School juniors reported vaping more than the state average.
According to Mahtomedi Public Schools results from the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, 36% of junior males and 35% of junior females reported using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days before taking the survey.
Statewide, one in four juniors reported vaping, Mahtomedi High School Assistant Principal Justin Hahn told the school board at an Oct. 24 meeting. “We are above that,” he noted. Mahtomedi freshmen were also surveyed; 20% of freshman males and 16% of freshman females reported vaping.
The school has been working on restorative accountability for students regarding this issue rather than punitive consequences. The school works with the Washington County Attorney's Office school resource officer, Hazelden and the Washington County Youth Service Bureau to steer students away from the health hazard.
Most vape devices carried by students look like a flash drive, he said, and are hard for adults to spot. He showed examples of confiscated devices at the board meeting. They were sealed in plastic because vape residue still remained in some of the devices.
Adolescent girls report anxiety
In addition, district administration learned other things about its students through the survey. Students were asked a series of mental health questions regarding how they felt over the previous two weeks.
The majority of students surveyed in eighth, ninth and 11th grades reported not feeling little interest or pleasure in doing things or feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
The majority of male students reported not feeling nervous, anxious or on edge or unable to stop or control worrying. However, 64 to 73% of females reported feeling so from several days to every day. Between 50 and 54% of females also reported not being able to stop or control worrying from several days to every day.
The district has undertaken initiatives to support student mental health, including a mental health resource specialist, restorative practices social worker, school-based counseling and depression screening in health class.
Students feel safe at school
A majority of students surveyed reported feeling safe at school. Among fifth graders, 88 percent of males and 97% of females said they agree or strongly agree they feel safe at school. For eighth graders, that number was 95% for males and 92% for females. Ninety-five percent of male freshman and 90% of female freshman reported the same. Among juniors, the numbers were 97% for males and females.
Bullying low at elementary school
Fifth grade students at O.H. Anderson Elementary School reported very low rates of bullying in the survey.
Over the last 30 days before taking the survey, 98% of male fifth graders and 95% of female fifth graders reported never being bullied regarding race, ethnicity or national origin. Regarding religion, the numbers were 100% and 98% never being bullied. Females reported slightly less favorable results regarding gender bullying — 99% of males and 92% of females reported having never being bullied about gender.
The district stated it believes its Second Step Bullying Prevention Curriculum has helped it attain the low bullying rates reported.
The Minnesota Student Survey is administered every three years to students across Minnesota; districts participate voluntarily. All responses are anonymous, and students may choose not to participate. If students take the survey, they may skip questions.
In other action at its Oct. 24 meeting the board:
• Closed a portion of the beginning of the meeting to discuss a personnel matter.
• Heard a first-quarter financial update and enrollment report from Finance Director Bill Menozzi. There are 3,280 students in the district. This school year's budget is based on 3,270 students. There are 604 students at Wildwood, 665 at O.H. Anderson, 831 at the middle school and 1,180 at the high school.
• Approved the World's Best Workforce Plan, an annual requirement by the state to increase student performance.
• Approved the 2020 school board meeting schedule. The board will have two shorter retreats this year instead of one; there will be one in January and one in July.
• Approved a resolution to not renew an annual coaching contract for Robert Heagle, who coached the girls varsity softball team the last two seasons. The closed discussion earlier in the meeting was regarding Heagle, noted Superintendent Barbara Duffrin.