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Report: 1 in 12 city high schoolers attempted suicide

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Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 12:00 am

Of all the numbers bandied about at Monday’s Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education meeting, one in particular caught the eyes of board members.

It wasn’t the $3 million deficit projected for the 2013-14 school year, following a similar deficit in the just-completed school year, nor was it 714 Native American students in the schools or the nickel increase in school lunch fees.

The number that popped out was 8.3 percent — 8.3 percent of students at Cleveland, Rio Rancho and Independence high schools, or one in 12, have attempted suicide. Some 18.5 percent have contemplated taking their own lives.

Those figures were revealed in a report from Sherri Carver, the director for Student Services, and part of a lengthy School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) report.

The report was gleaned from a 135-question survey on risky behaviors and resiliency factors that was conducted in 2011 with 313 students at the three high schools and 270 students in two of the district’s middle schools. It showed attempted suicide rates for students in grades 6-8 was 5 percent for males and 7.3 percent for females.

Board President Carl Harper termed the report’s numbers “serious and disturbing.”

Because the surveys were done anonymously, Carver and the board members agreed students might have altered their responses and not taken them seriously. Board member Divyesh Patel said the percentage of attempted suicides seemed high to him.

The surveys also dealt with the use of alcohol and drugs, sex, how much time was spent watching TV and playing video games, bullying, riding a bike without a helmet or being in a car and not wearing a seat belt.

“There will be some who will not take it seriously,” said Superintendent Sue Cleveland about the 200-plus pages worth of reports.

“It does provide some information,” Carver said. “I believe we can do better in the mental health aspect.”

Part of trying to “do better” includes adding school counselors, some through a federal grant, and seeking more mentors for students.

The next time the survey is conducted, the board suggested, the district should seek more student participation and conduct the survey at all four middle schools instead of just two (Eagle Ridge and Rio Rancho middle schools were used in 2011).

It suggested getting a breakout of school-specific data, such as which schools have more students with suicidal tendencies or which have more students using marijuana.

In other business, the board:

• Congratulated Cyber Academy student Dale Harper for designing the winning logo for the district’s Information Technology Department;

• Approved policies 326 (confidentiality of student records) and 501 (booster club organization and finances) after second readings;

• Briefly discussed Policy 130 (open meetings), which received its first reading;

• Approved new fees for organizations that schedule the use of a school facility, then cancel the use;

• OK’d a five-cent increase for lunches (to $2.15 in the elementary schools and to $2.30 in middle schools and high schools) for the coming school year;

• Approved the additions of Connie Peterson and Kelly Wainright to the district’s audit subcommittee;

• Heard and approved Victoria Tafoya’s reports on title I, II, III and VII programs, plus bilingual education; and

• Listened apprehensively to Finance Director Randy Evans’s 2013-14 budget report, which contained “zero dollars budgeted for teacher evaluations.”

Although a special meeting may be scheduled before the month ends, the next regularly scheduled meeting will be held July 15 at 5:40 p.m. in the board room.

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