State survey reveals risk factors for PR students

Responses by last year's fifth, eighth, ninth and 11th graders to the every-third-year Minnesota State Survey show attitudes about school, nutrition, health, substance use and sex.

Park Rapids Area Schools students’ responses to the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey are now available.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education’s website, the survey was developed in 1989 to monitor students’ risk and protective behaviors, including tobacco, alcohol and drug use, nutrition, physical activity, school safety, mental health, relationships and sex. Since 2013, the survey has been given every third year to students in grades 5, 8, 9 and 11.

PR High School Principal Jeff Johnson commended the report to the school board on Oct. 21.

Park Rapids students responding to the survey last spring included 109 fifth graders, 126 eighth graders, 104 freshmen and 79 juniors. Of the 418 total students, 48% were male and 52% female.

Topics of the survey included:


  • Ethnic and racial demographics, with 81% of the students identifying as white, 6% as Native American, 3% as black, 2.4% as Hispanic and 5.5% as multiple races.

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity, with 12% of 11th grade girls describing themselves as lesbian.

  • Living situations, with 15% of ninth grade girls saying they have been in foster care and 37% of ninth grade boys saying they have or had a parent in jail.

  • Post-graduation plans, such as college, vocational school or work, with 20% of eighth grade boys looking forward to getting a job right after high school.

  • Academic advising, school attendance and discipline, with juniors more likely to report that an adult helped them think about education options for after high school, and freshmen more likely to say an adult helped them find career-focused field experiences.

  • Attitudes about school, such as whether they pay attention or go to class prepared. Some 35% of eighth grade boys said they care about doing well in school only “some” or “none of the time.”

  • Feelings about school, such as whether they learn useful things, are treated fairly, heard or cared about by school staff. High percentages, including 76% of ninth grade boys, did not consider being a student an important part of their identity.

  • Feelings of safety at school, en route to and from school and in their neighborhood. Some 15% of fifth grade girls said they felt unsafe in their neighborhood.

  • After-school supervision, community programs and enrichment activities. Many high school students reported having an after-school job – notably 11th grade girls at 39%.

  • Bullying and cyberbullying. Of fifth-grade girls, 50% reported being targeted with mean rumors or lies and 58% reported being excluded.

  • Communication with adults in their lives and feeling cared about. As many as 18% of 11th grade boys said they don’t have any adults they can talk to about their problems.

  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), relationship violence and sexual abuse. Depending on age and sex, 6-18% of students have experienced four or more ACEs.

  • General and dental health and history of mental health and substance abuse issues. For example, 38% of 11th grade girls said they have long-term mental health issues.

  • Daily exercise, sleep and indoor tanning regimens. For example, 23% of ninth grade boys said they sleep less than six hours during a typical school night.

  • Regular meals, school lunches and nutrition, with 38% of ninth grade girls receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

  • Vehicle safety, with 35% of 11th grade girls saying they at least sometimes send or read texts or emails while driving, and 36% of the same group saying they at least sometimes answer a phone call while driving.

  • Students’ self-description and questions about their emotional wellbeing and distress. For example, 48% of fifth grade girls agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I worry a lot.”

  • Self-harm, suicidal thoughts and behavior, and problematic and antisocial behavior. For example, 33% of fifth grade boys said they had hit or beat up another person during the last year; 40% of 11th grade girls had seriously considered attempting suicide.

  • Gambling. For example, 18% of ninth grade boys said that during the last year, they sometimes hid their gambling from parents, family members or teachers.

  • Secondhand smoke. For example, more than 30% of fifth graders said they had ridden in a car during the last week with someone who was smoking.

  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, marijuana and other substances, including the perceived risks and consequences, perceptions of others’ disapproval, and perceptions about others’ use. For example, 64% of 11th grade girls said they had tried a vaping device at least once and 15% of ninth grade boys used one daily.

  • Sexual activity, risk awareness and prevention. For example, 32% of 11th grade boys said they’d had sex during the last year.

The complete survey report is displayed below.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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