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Fairfax County Youth Survey Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Fairfax County Youth Survey

Did you know that many kids and teens in our community are dealing with dating violence and depression? Or that cyberbullying, drugs and alcohol also can be problems? Learn more about the behaviors, experiences and other factors that influence the health and well-being of our youth. DeDe Bailer from Fairfax County Public Schools and Sophia Dutton, the county’s expert on the annual Youth Survey, which looks at civic engagement, cyberbullying, teen dating violence, environmental stewardship and life skills of kids and teens, answered your questions.

Dede Bailer : Welcome to today's Ask Fairfax! chat. We will be talking about information from the 2009 Youth Survey. You will learn about the behaviors, experiences, and other factors that influence the health and well-being of our youth. I'm joined by Sophia Dutton from the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. We welcome any questions you might have regarding the survey.

Anonymous User : What is currently being done to address teen dating violence? If a program were offered through the county to Fairfax County Public School to address this issue, what is the likelihood that schools would welcome the program?

Dede Bailer : Essential Life Skills and Responsible Citizenship are two FCPS School Board goals and certainly healthy relationships are part of those goals. Understanding and promoting healthy relationships and establishing and strengthening protective factors for all students is a focus of the collaborative efforts of FC and FCPS as we move forward with prevention and early intervention programs. Illustratively, Fairfax County has a program called Safe Dates that addresses dating violence. This program, along with other programs, is part of the dialogue in the continuing collaboration between FCPS and FC. For more information on Safe Dates, visit

Karen/Springfield : Isn't it a problem that only 20 percent of Fairfax County youth are physically active for at least 60 minutes every day? Shouldn't that percentage be much higher? Like 80 percent? What's being done to avoid raising another generation of overweight children with serious medical problems?

Sophia Dutton : We would like to see a much higher percentage of Fairfax County youth who are physically active and have good nutritional habits. FCPS and FC have programs that teach students about good nutrition as well as encourage physical activity. Parents also play an important role to limit screentime, prepare healthy meals, and model healthy behaviors like regular exercise.

Concerned Parent : What is the procedure if your principal doesn't take bullying seriously and they are trying to further bully the child and family into not persuing a serious matter? I have the same question about a physically and emotionally abusive teacher.

Dede Bailer : Bullying is taken seriously in FCPS whether the individual doing the bullying is another student or an adult. You have taken the correct first step by contacting the principal. Putting your concerns in writing to the principal may ensure clarity of your question/concern. If you feel that your concern has not been resolved you may request a meeting with the principal and the Cluster Director. You also may want to contact your school counselor, school psychologist, or school social worker for strategies to work with your child on how to respond to the situation.

Anonymous User : How is the survey conducted? (ie, who decides which questions and how they are asked and how they are analyzed?) Is it a company contracted by FFX co? My son took the survey this year in 8th grade and came home unhappy about it.. Just curious...

Sophia Dutton : The Youth Survey instruments are based on national surveys (Communities that Care and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance). The surveys are paper-based (pdfs of the survey instruments are available at, which are collected and sent to a vendor for scanning. The data are analyzed by a vendor as well as by County and FCPS staff.

Anonymous User : Do the survey results indicate any concerns that are not presently being addressed through county or school programming?

Dede Bailer : The survey was first administered to a limited number of students in 2001and has evolved to the census model used today. The data generated has guided the development of programs and survey revisions to a point where we have a comprehensive data analysis of issues facing our youth and programs that address those concerns.

Anonymous User : Where does it seem that we are making the most progress? In what areas have results improved the most over the years?

Sophia Dutton : Since 2001, the area that we've seen the most improvement is substance use, especially declines in alcohol and cigarette use.

Lynne Russell : Dating Abuse Stops Here (DASH) is a website packed with information for teens and parents. It was launched following the murder of my daughter, and Fairfax teen Siobhan Russell: killed by her boyfriend. How can we best dialogue with FC and FCPS to bring this information into our schools?

Dede Bailer : Please accept our condolences for the loss of your daughter, Siobhan. Fairfax County currently has a Public Service Announcement and a Fact Sheet under development and the information on your website has been part of the bank of information that formed the content of the PSA and Fact Sheet. All educational materials developed by the county are available for use by the school system.

Anonymous User : the last survey had some very interesting data on how certain assets that kids said they had meant they were less likely to engage in certain risky behaviors. Does this survey have similar data?

Sophia Dutton : Yes. This graph, which we refer to as "Three to Succeed", can be found in the Powerpoint presentation of the 2009 Youth Survey results ( We continue to see similar results where youth who have three assets are significantly less likely to report engaging in risky behavior.

Middle School Mom : Why do you have to include 8th graders in this survey? Why do you ask them questions about oral sex, contraception, and other embarrassing topics? Contraception and oral sex aren't even discussed in Family Life Education classes, at least in Middle School. As a parent, I wanted to opt my daughter out but then she would have been embarrassed to be sent to the library while her classmates completed the survey. Embarrassing and unnecessary either way. If 3/4 of students reported not engaging in sexual activity last year, why do you keep doing these surveys. Can't you conclude from those statistics that teenage sex is NOT A PROBLEM in Fairfax County?

Sophia Dutton : The Youth Survey includes a broad range of topics, including bullying, substance use, depression, nutrition, physical activity, civic engagement, and risk and protective factors. Depending on the topic, 8th graders could be at higher risk than 10th and 12th graders. For example, 8th graders have a higher prevalence of bullying, cyberbullying, and using inhalants. By looking at data collected over time, we can determine if there are any upward trends in risky behaviors that need to be addressed.

Opt Out? : What percentage of parents opted their children out at various grade levels? What types of questions and for what reasons do you believe they opted out? Has their been any survey of the parents whom opted out to find out why?

Sophia Dutton : We did not start centrally collecting data on the number of opt outs until 2010. We do not ask parents about their rationale for their decision to opt out their children.

Laurie : How does the pressure from parents to be successful effect the rate of depression and substance abuse? Not only is our area populated with highly educated - over achieving parents we also have a generation of parents that moved from their native country to provide their child with the opportunity for a better education. Are parent programs developed to help educate about the pressure they placing on their children?

Dede Bailer : The data from the survey does not provide a cross analysis of parental pressure for student success with depression and substance abuse. A cross analysis of students who report earning grades of A and B with reports of feeling sad or hopeless did not indicate a high correlation. This data was cross tabbed for depression only. We do not have a similar analysis for substance abuse.

Anonymous User : What could your parents/schools do to give you more useful information about the things that matter to you?

Sophia Dutton : Parents encouraging their child's participation in the Youth Survey in the years to come would be helpful. In addition, parents having regular conversations with their children to determine what issues are on their mind and bringing things to the attention of schools, government officials, and community leaders that need a community response can help FC and FCPS determine where to allocate resources to address needs.

Anonymous User : It used to be that getting a job was an available option for young people to deter them from risky behaviors and instead connect them to responsibilty, purpose, civic engagement, etc...With the economy falling, older workers now have most of the jobs at McDonald's, the mall, and even the movie theater. Summer jobs are also more difficult (and competitive) to come by. What are your thoughts on how we can get those opportunities back?

Dede Bailer : In addition to risk behaviors, the survey looks at protective factors. The survey results indicate that youth with opportunities to participate in community and school sponsored organizations and activities have lower reported use of illegal substances, lower incidence of sexual activity and lower rates of gang participation. The survey results indicate that if our youth have three assets their chances for success are greatly increased; one of the assets is Involved in Community. You may view the graph representing the Three to Succeed data at:

Opt Out? : If you centrally collected the data this year, then what are the statistics or where can it be found?

Sophia Dutton : We are still in the process of administering the 2010 Youth Survey, so those statistics are unavailable right now.

Sophia Dutton : Dede and I have thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions today. For more information on the Youth Survey, visit