The Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey saga came to an end during the Carbon School Board meeting on Wednesday evening after a lengthy discussion spanning three board meetings.
Superintendent Mika Salas originally brought the survey to the board’s attention during November’s meeting with several concerns regarding the validity of the results. She also stated that Carbon School District (CSD) does not use any of the data that is collected from the survey since the districts’ counselors and therapists gather more accurate data.
Since then, multiple discussions have been had regarding the survey. This included discussions with a prevention specialist from the C.A.R.E Coalition, Four Corners Community Behavior Health (FCCBH) and Southeast Utah Health Department. The SHARP survey provides the data for these organizations to apply for grants to better provide specific prevention programs in the area.
The SHARP survey has been administrated biannually to students in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades in public school districts throughout Utah since 2003. Beginning this year, legislation is no longer requiring the survey, ultimately giving school districts the choice to participate or not.
Questions within the survey pertain to alcohol/drug use, emotional well-being and gender identity. However, the survey is confidential and completely voluntary.
A large concern of the board was directly tied to how accurate the collected data is depending on how honest the students answer the questions. Student school board member Elizabeth Blackburn was asked by the board to give a student’s perspective on the survey.
“I just don’t think there is any way that kids that are illegally drinking or using illegal drugs are going to be honest on that survey,” said Blackburn. She explained that students participating in those illegal activities feel as if they will be reprimanded for answering correctly, even though it is stated that the survey is anonymous.
Several parents in favor of the survey expressed their concerns if the survey is no longer administrated. Melissa Huntington, Executive Director of FCCBH, stood in front of the board to speak solely as a concerned parent.
“I want to work with schools personally that prioritize my children’s mental health, that aren’t afraid of hearing about it or are not afraid of having communications with the kids if they do have questions,” said Huntington.
Superintendent Salas stated that Huntington’s comment is a misrepresentation of the district’s efforts toward mental health. She explained that CSD is a leader within the state for mental health, going above and beyond of what is required.
CSD currently employs full-time counselors in every elementary school, three full-time licensed clinical social workers at all secondary schools and two full-time behavioral specialists. The district also offers free individual therapy.
Superintendent Salas then explained that once the students answer the questions from the SHARP survey, they are not given the help that is needed, especially at an individual level.
“We do not have a fear of asking students questions,” said Superintendent Salas. “Our fear is asking them a question then not providing the support when they give us the answers.”
At the conclusion of last week’s discussion, school board vice president Wayne Woodward made a motion to approve the agenda item for a one-time approval for the SHARP survey to be administrated within the district this year. However, within his motion, he said an informational sheet should be provided to parents with a list of the survey’s categories along with an explanation that more detailed questions will be asked depending on how each student answers. Along with the informational sheet, a link will be required with the SHARP survey questions.
The school board members expressed that they highly encourage parents to read those questions. Parents will still be required to sign another consent form to opt in or out of the survey since the forms were already distributed during enrollment.
School board member Keith Cox seconded the motion, bringing it to a vote. All members of the board voted in favor of the motion except for school board president Jeffery Richens. However, the motion still passed due to majority.
Questions from the SHARP survey can be found here.