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How helpful is Utah's SHARP survey? Parents have just days to give input


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah parents have one more week to give their feedback on the State Board of Education's decision to pull its support for the Student Health and Risk Prevention survey, otherwise known as SHARP.

Earlier this year the board decided it would no longer support the program and now some state leaders and parents have come forward calling that decision a hasty move.

In just over a week, a work group will make additional recommendations to the board about the survey.

It's already tough to be a parent of teenagers and Kristen Pexton will soon have five of them.

"You get overwhelmed as a parent, like, there's so much out there," Pexton said.

She said the data gathered in the SHARP survey is useful.

"You look at that data and you can see, oh maybe 30% of our 12th graders have tried vaping right? Which is surprising," she added. It gives her important topics to address with her kids. "And when it comes to our kids, we want to protect them and we want to know what's going on in our communities."

It's why she is asking parents to step up and share their opinions before the State Board of Education makes further decisions regarding the survey.

"For nearly 20 years, the SHARP survey has been an important tool that supports the identification of needs and prioritization of services to schools and communities, and provides live-saving insight into topics affecting our youth, including social and emotional health, anti-social behavior, and substance use," the Utah Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. "Recent proof of the SHARP survey's effects include the creation of the SafeUT mobile app and the Live On campaign to reduce suicide and suicide ideation."

School board members cited concerns with sensitive questions and questions that could give teens bad ideas but the survey itself has always required parents to give their approval before their kids can participate.

In the end, Pexton feels it gives information we all can use.

"Because none of us live on an island. We're all a part of this," she said.

Sen. Dan Thatcher said the SHARP survey helped Utah get ahead of vaping, getting us to respond before other states.

He also added that it's been a major resource for the SafeUT commission.

"Without board support, districts and schools will decide on their own whether to participate in the future," he said.

"Without Board support, districts and schools will decide on their own whether to participate in the future."

The Utah Department of Health and Human Survices clarified in a statement to KSL that the decision to participate in SHARP is a local choice, made by the local school districts and schools, not the State Board of Education.

"The survey will continue to be available to districts/schools at no cost, as funding and administration of SHARP is provided by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services," read the health department's statement.

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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