CHESTERTOWN - Far fewer students in the North Warren Central School are experimenting with alcohol and marijuana than just several years ago, and those trying it are waiting later to do it, according to survey results released this week.
School officials greeted the news with enthusiasm, crediting character education classes and anti-drug programs including DARE offered in the school system.
"I'm thrilled with the results," North Warren Guidance Counselor Mike Therio said Monday. "These figures are extremely encouraging, and they show that things are moving in a positive direction at North Warren."
All grade levels reported decreases greater than 20 percent in lifetime use of alcohol, and the predominant age of first alcohol use rose from age 10 to 14, according to the survey, which guaranteed anonymity to the students.
The survey was conducted independently in September by the Council for Prevention of Alcohol & Substance Abuse, a regional agency that sponsors programs for dozens of schools regionally.
In Spring 2006, 67.5 percent of all ninth graders reported they used alcohol during the past 12 months, but in Fall 2008, only 20.9 percent said they had, reflecting a two-thirds decrease, Therio said.
Nearly all other grade levels reflected similar substantial decreases in alcohol use.
Marijuana use dropped 13 percent between 2004 and 2008 with largest decreases in grades 9 and 10, according to the Council. Also, student perception and adults believe it is wrong for teens to use alcohol increased 25 percent, and with marijuana, it was up 12 percent during that time.
Therio said another survey result impressed him perhaps the most.
Students' perception that they would be viewed as "being cool" for drinking, decreased 31 percent during that time, and for marijuana, decreased by 20 percent.
Half as many North Warren students or less in grades 8 and 9 reported ever using alcohol than the average for Warren and Washington counties, and declines in reported marijuana use were nearly as steep.