Sex, drugs part of these students' education
Survey by Shenendehowa senior of her classmates
reveals seamy side of school; results upset official
Times Union (Albany) By
DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
May 18, 2006
CLIFTON PARK --
Ninety-two percent of Shenendehowa seniors polled in a
survey said they can acquire marijuana easily, and six
in 10 seniors sampled in the suburban district reported
90 percent of the surveyed seniors at Shenendehowa
claimed they have friends who smoke pot, and nearly
three in four of them found pot socially acceptable.
Those were the findings
of senior Mariam Ballout, who wrote "Sexual Activity and
Drug Use at Shen" for the district's student newspaper,
The Shen Pen. It was also for her advanced statistics
Ballout, 17, based her
reporting on 14 questions posed to 152 sophomores,
juniors and seniors in random homerooms in Shenendehowa
High School East. The queries surveyed students about
their drug use and sexual activity.
Some of the answers
startled and even disappointed school leaders, but the
results made sense, she and a top school official said.
"The figures are worse
than I would have hoped," school board President Gary
DiLallo said. "I don't think I'm shocked,
He said his daughter and
two sons were educated in the district, and they
witnessed some of what the survey reports.
"The numbers are not
something to be proud of, as far as I'm concerned,"
Some students and
teachers said the response totals came in too low.
Others said too high. Ballout, the former Op-Ed page
editor of The Shen Pen, says she got a fair sample.
Students Melanie Raydo and Liz Gray helped distribute
the surveys, the results of which were published in the
paper's May edition.
Ballout also discovered
that of all those surveyed, 36 percent tried marijuana;
12 percent smoke it once a week or more; 16 percent have
tried other drugs; 10 percent have experimented with a
hallucinogen; 35 percent think they could get an
hallucinogen easily; 4 percent have tried cocaine or
ecstasy; and 53 percent -- including 62 percent of
seniors -- view drug use as a problem at the district.
"Actually, it was pretty
much what I expected," Ballout said. "I got a lot of
reaction from students and teachers."
Nearly one in four
sophomores polled have had sex, 31 percent of juniors
and 60 percent of seniors, according to the survey. The
latter number is close to the 61.6 percent of 12th-grade
students nationwide who had intercourse in 2003,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Ballout no longer writes
for The Shen Pen, but she said her leaving had nothing
to do with the story she wrote. She noted in the story
that most of the results from the drug-related questions
matched that of recent national studies of high school
"I think there's a lot of
speculation (about) how much drug use and sex actually
occurs at Shen. I tried to give people an actual
representation of what the truth was," Ballout said.