Student Response to the Health Survey

Chris Maurice

In the last edition of the Forum, Hedy Gutfreund and I reported on the results of the Independent School Health Check survey that upper school students took in October. The purpose of the article was to inform students, faculty, and other Latin community members on the results of the survey. Since being released, students have voiced their opinions of surprise, frustration, or, in some cases, lack of surprise with the results.

The most shocking aspect of the survey results were the numbers relating to suicide, cutting, and depression – one student saying, “It’s just stuff that you don’t hear or talk about in school.” The same student continued saying, “At Latin, students sometimes attempt to block out everything bad that is going on and prefer to be sheltered from negative things.”

One remark I heard many times when I talked to students was their lack of honesty on the survey. Students believed that this survey would be used against them as a way to catch people who cheat on tests, drink, or abuse drugs. Several students even lied on the question that asked, “How honest have you been in answering the questions on this survey,” a significant question that proves the legitimacy of the survey. Sophomore dean Ms. McCarthy said that those claims were false – there would be no way to discover who said what on the surveys. Regardless, students were afraid of the repercussions that would come with how the results would be taken into account.

Another aspect of the survey that surprised several students were the results surrounding cheating, as 18% of students have, admittedly, cheated on tests or quizzes. What was shocking is how 50% of students overestimated the amount of students that cheated on test. Everyone that I talked too had seen someone cheating on a test and agreed it’s getting harder for teachers to catch it. If students see their peers cheating, it makes the student who isn’t cheating feeling like they are behind and at an unfair advantage – creating a vicious cycle. Some students believe that cheating is a social norm, and, in order to do well, one must cheat, making sense of why 50% of students overestimated the amount of cheating on tests that occurs.

A major takeaway from this survey was the effect and amount of stress on students. Stress plays a major factor into the way Latin students feel about their schoolwork. Every student that I talked too said that stress was beneficial to his or her schoolwork and the amount of homework students have every night keeps them, as one student put it “busy”. Pressure is good for some people and according to one person I talked to pressure is “expected” at Latin. But I began to comprehend that students have begun to put themselves under so much stress and pressure that one cannot realize what it is does to them. Students I talked to said they were stressed but when I asked how could their stress be decreased many students didn’t know what to say. We are pressured into joining multiple clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities, on top of homework. Being busy is good and if you aren’t busy, you are behind. Will relief ever come? Being stressed is not good and teachers at Latin know that. But extrinsic motivators (outside pressures on oneself) continue to be the root cause for stress in students, rising 11% in the last 3 years among students and the school cannot control those, only students can.

Ms. McCarthy said the survey, “help us improve what we do and how we do it.” Changes that deal with stress, mental health, and security are on the way for Latin. Many were brought about as an effect of the survey results. Latin is attempting to be open about the results with students as they continue to make the necessary changes to the school.]]>