BOARD INSIGHT: Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results: Protective Factors

This article is the second in a series discussing the results of the recent Pittsford Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Superintendent Pero wrote about the biennial survey in his October eNewsletter, sharing out some detailed results with respect to: use of vape products and e-cigarettes, social media and safety, alcohol use, distracted driving, mental health, and assets/protective factors.

This Board Insights article looks to dig deeper into the survey’s results, particularly around Protective Factors. The PCSD Board of Education highly values and supports the work done to ensure that Pittsford Schools’ Protective Factors are strong for all our students.

Survey Background

Pittsford Schools collaborates with the Monroe County Department of Public Health to gather information about the health risk behaviors of students in grades 6-12 through a voluntary and anonymous Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is conducted every 2 years.

The YRBS is key to identifying risk behaviors students participate in or have experienced, monitoring trends and guiding prevention and early intervention strategies. The YRBS data is used to develop programs and services to –

  • address student needs,
  • inform parents and community of trends,
  • promote positive normative behaviors through classroom and school-wide activities,
  • create school-wide programs and activities targeting specific areas, and
  • develop community partnerships to address identified areas.

Identifying student behaviors and monitoring trends related to youth risk behaviors remain critical to the health and welfare of our students.

In 2019, 1,712 Pittsford high school students and 1,280 Pittsford middle school students participated in the YRBS. The YRBS includes behaviors related to violence and bullying, social media and safety, substance use, mental health, sexual activity (high school only), general health, adverse childhood experiences, and assets related to home, school, and community.

Protective Factors

A protective factor is a characteristic at the biological, psychological, family, or community (including peers and culture) level that is associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor or problem.

Protective factors are conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports, or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities.

Encouraging strong staff/student/parent relationships remains a BOE priority. In that spirit, our staff has fostered the concept that each of our students should be able to name at least one trusted adult in their school building. Data shows us that students who have at least one trusted adult in the school or the community are better able to manage stress and avoid negative situations. The protective asset of having this trusted, interested adult helps mitigate possible risky student behaviors. 

The 2019 student survey provided evidence of the success of this work.

Key Findings for Pittsford Students Regarding Protective Factors

We were delighted to learn from the YRBS that about 85% of middle school students and between 75-86% of high school students get encouragement at their school, feel like they matter in the community, and know one or more adults (other than parents) with whom they can discuss important issues. This metric has generally increased from 2018 to 2019.

 chart with Youth Risk Behavior Survey respones

chart with youth risk behavior survey responses

Even more encouraging is that both our middle and high school students are comfortable in approaching school counselors and teachers when confronted with personal problems.

Chart of Pittsford Middle School responses to Youth Risk Behavior Survey question

Chart of Pittsford High School responses for Youth Rick Behavior Survey question

In 2019, significantly more students are using the services of the counselors or teachers to manage personal problems. In recognition of this increased need, the BOE has approved additional mental health professional services in our schools. 

The complete findings for Pittsford students from the 2019 YRBS can be found here.