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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- Officials here are admitting that some kids use drugs in the hope it will keep others off illegal substances.
It's a social norms approach, officials said of the joint program between Park City High School and Valley Mental Health.
"If a ninth-grade kid believes that 90 percent of the school smokes pot, he's going to feel peer pressure to join them," said program manger Merilee Buchanan. "But if he thinks only 25 percent do it, then his behavior will follow the trend."
To combat the perception that the school and town are party central, the joint program used a $150,000 state grant to survey 445 of the school's 1,200 students.
The survey was conducted with permission of parents although students remained anonymous.
Results showed that 66 percent of the students did not drink alcohol, and that 75 percent did not smoke marijuana. It also revealed that 90 percent did not use other illicit substances.
Officials then outlined a public relations campaign through posters, radio, student and community newspapers and television to make teens and their parents aware of the results.
"So, when kids say, 'Hey, everybody at the party was drinking,' the parents will say, "We don't think so,"' Buchanan said.
Park City Schools Superintendent Dave Adamson said he likes the new program because it gives information to the entire town.
"The community perception is that we have a bigger problem than we actually have," he said. "At this age, to have an adult tell you it's a bad thing doesn't carry the same weight as it does when peers do."
Buchanan said some people are fearful because they are admitting that 25 percent of the students use drugs and alcohol. But she says they are forgetting what they are not saying, that 75 percent don't.
"With continued information based on credible data, students will scale back exaggerated misperceptions," Buchanan said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)