Since 2003, the SHARP survey has been given biannually to students in grades sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th in public school districts across the State of Utah. The SHARP survey is to assess adolescent substance use and antisocial behavior as well as the risk and protective factors that predict these adolescent problem behaviors, according to the Utah State Board of Education. The survey is a collaborative effort of the Department of Health, the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and the Utah State Board of Education.
However, this year, the Utah State Board of Education withdrew its support from the survey, lifting the requirement by legislation to mandate the administration of the survey within Utah schools. This has given school districts the opportunity to decide on whether to continue administrating the survey or not.
Superintendent Mika Salas addressed the board, stating that she did not make a decision this year on the survey due to the fact that a parent permission slip was already included in the registration documents for this school year. However, she would like for the board to have all the information in front of them to be able to vote on the survey before the test is administrated again in 2024.
“I think that we need to think through it carefully,” said Superintendent Salas.
Questions asked in the survey pertain to alcohol/drug use, emotional well-being and gender identity. While the sixth graders do take a different test than the older students, school board members are still concerned if the survey is age appropriate.
“There is a lot of stuff in there that I don’t think that an 11-year-old really ought to know about,” said board president Jeffery Richens.
Board member Lee McCourt addressed her concerns by questioning how the students feel after participating in the survey. Both versions of the test include over 150 questions that deal with the students’ private lives. Each student is given 45 minutes to complete the survey.
Board member Gwen Callahan stated that she has personally had students tell her they have not been honest when taking the survey.
Local agencies, such as South Eastern Utah Health Department and the CARE Coalition, use this data for their efforts within the community. However, CSD does not use this data, stating it is skewed by only requiring the student body that are in those specific grades during even years to participate. The school board is also concerned if the data is accurate due to students not being completely truthful when answering the questions.
“Should we supply other state agencies with data from our own students when we don’t benefit from the data?” asked Superintendent Salas. “I would argue that our counselors and our therapists could give us more accurate data on these points.”
This topic will be brought back to the board as an action item in the future. At that time, the board will vote whether or not to administer the survey within district in 2024.
“We will need to choose whether or not we want to give the survey to our students,” concluded Superintendent Salas.