They shared their desire to have more data, to find out more about Omaha youths' experiences with violent and sexual activity.
They told the board committee the best way to get that information was for a comprehensive survey to be given to high school students this fall.
But members of an Omaha school board committee rejected the request from Douglas County health officials.
This fall, just like two years ago, Omaha high school students will take a shortened survey that asks of their tobacco, nutrition and exercise habits.
The questions about violent and sexual behavior will be missing. Committee members said they worried how outside groups would use the information.
“I fully understand your need for data,” board member Barbara Velázquez said. “Our concern is misuse by other people. ... We do feel targeted.”
Had the curriculum committee approved the longer survey earlier this week, the full board still would have had to approve it.
The committee vote was 2-4, with Justin Wayne and Freddie Gray in favor of the broader survey. Nancy Kratky, Marian Fey, Nancy Huston and Sandra Jensen voted “no.”
In 2010, Omaha Public Schools administrators agreed to have the modified survey given to high school students that fall and in fall 2012.
The board didn't get asked to approve the matter then because it was only the modified survey, said Matt Ray, OPS director of student and community services.
Students at all 16 public high schools in Douglas County took that survey in fall 2010, and they are scheduled do so again this fall.
The broader version of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey asks around 90 questions, including ones about sexual and violent behavior, such as, “During the past 30 days, on how many days did you carry a gun?”
The Douglas County Health Department wants the data to help its chances of getting grants that can be used in the community, said Adi Pour, department director.
Within the past two years, she said, the department tried to get a nearly $1 million federal grant to work with community groups on preventing youth violence.
The department couldn't apply, she said, because the grant required data about youths' violent behavior.
“The data is lacking for this community,” Pour said in an interview. “If we don't know what the behavior are of our youth, how are we going to address anything?”
She and two other health officials, including a University of Nebraska Medical Center physician and researcher, asked the board to approve the longer survey.
Statewide, in 2010, all but a few of the 72 schools that were asked to participate in the full survey did so, said Julane Hill of the Nebraska Department of Education.
The OPS committee had tabled the issue in May because it wanted more information.
Board members also wondered why Nebraska private schools are not asked to participate in the federal survey, the results of which are distributed by county name and carry no district or high school identifications, Pour said.
The data also list race, ethnicity, grade and gender.
The committee's vote was the district's latest go-around with the survey.
In 1995, the idea of asking middle school students four questions about their sexual behavior worried parents so much that the OPS board opted for a parental consent form. Soon after that survey was administered, the district opted out.
A 2003 community effort to get OPS students back into the survey was unsuccessful.
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