Thirty-eight organizations and 40 individuals have signed onto a letter to Florida Department of Education Interim Commissioner Jacob Oliva expressing concerns over the state’s decision to drop out of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey designed to assess youth risk behavior and to inform public health policies.
The letter to Oliva notes the state will lose its ability to compare itself to the national average and to other states with similar populations.
And while the Department of Education indicated that it intends on developing its own version of a risk youth survey, the letter sent to Oliva warns that there are significant costs associated with developing a new reliable survey instrument. Additionally, the signers of the letter warned, Florida will lose the money it currently receives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to administer the existing study.
Florida has participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey since 1991. Angela R. Mann, president of the Florida Association of School Psychologists, said students can anonymously report their well-being and warned that dropping out of the survey will make it more difficult to assess what’s going on.
“Youth Risk Behavior Survey data is critical to helping school psychologists and other school-based mental health professionals across the state keep a pulse on the mental health and wellness of the youth we serve,” Mann said in a prepared release.
“These data help us to better understand trends in concerns youth are facing so that we can better problem solve and target supports, particularly for youth who we know are unlikely to be able to access mental health services in other community-based settings for a variety of reasons. These data are vital to our work and to the wellness of youth across the state.”
According to the CDC, behaviors practiced during adolescence often persist into adulthood and contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Youth health behavior data at the national, state, territorial, tribal, and local levels help monitor the effectiveness of public health interventions designed to promote adolescent health.
“Youth risk behavior data clearly shows an epidemic related to the mental health needs of our students and that our schools are less safe now than they have been in the past decade,” said Rindala Alajaji, public policy associate at Equality Florida. “We should be focused on supporting our students and creating safer schools, not hiding the data that is elevating these concerns.”