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Montana State Superintendent offers insight on Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Posted at 11:26 AM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 13:27:28-05

HELENA — Every odd-numbered year, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey is conducted in states who choose to participate, which is done in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

For Montana, the survey provides data that offers insight into the well-being of students across the state, according to Elsie Arntzen, the Montana superintendent of public instruction.

Of the nearly 4,500 students who took the survey, 10.5 % reported witnessing an increase of violence and weapons in schools, having been personally threatened with one on school property.

Elsie Arntzen
Elsie Arntzen

That number is up slightly from when the survey was last administered in 2021 when just 6 % percent of students reported the same.

“These things like all the bullying and everything that happens in a public school in rural Montana and even sometimes our big cities, it does not always make it up to the State level,” Arntzen explained.

She said that the onus falls upon each individual district to take accountability of student well-being and review the anonymous survey data.

Furthermore, if a district did detect a problem that needs to be addressed, like a high rate of weapons on school grounds, they can manage their budget accordingly and implement more outreach programs for student intervention.

“School Resource Officers (SRO), we have very few..." Arntzen said. "I have 70 across the whole state and 829 schools. Within those schools, I have 400 school districts. So it is important that the community rises to the occasion. So this is not just about the state level dictating, this thing is a bottom up protecting our kids.”

This years report also highlighted the increase in thoughts of suicide; 31 % of students reported their mental health was not good most of the time, or always.

To read the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, click here.