At Stoughton High School, there is a perception that most students drink alcohol. A new campaign is proving otherwise.
At Stoughton High School, there is a perception that most students drink alcohol.A new campaign is proving otherwise.
“WE ARE U-KNIGHTED” is a social norms campaign designed to change perceptions.
The theory for the campaign is based on an innovative, science-based approach to promoting healthy behavior. Research shows that actual behavior of students is strongly influenced by the perceived behavior of their peers.
If students believe their peers are all doing something like drinking regularly or smoking marijuana, they may feel pressured to do it, too.
For example, at Stoughton High, most students believe that most of their peers drink regularly.
The fear among concerned adults is that this inaccurate belief will pressure students into drinking.
At a special “WE ARE U-KNIGHTED” rally at Stoughton High last month, campaign staff members kicked off an effort to make sure students learned the truth.
While handing out promotional items and talking to students about not drinking, campaign staff shared the reality that 66 percent of students at Stoughton High School do not drink alcohol. Also, they informed students that, in fact, 59 percent of the students will say no if they are offered alcohol and 82 percent of them do not binge drink.
Learning the truth was not only important for most students, but a relief, according to Dawn Fontaine, Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator for OASIS (Organizing Against Substances in Stoughton), which was established in 2003 to address youth substance abuse. OASIS is part of the Stoughton Youth Commission.
Fontaine is the coordinator of the “WE ARE U-KNIGHTED” Campaign.
“Kids want to know what their peers are doing …they really want to know the truth,” said Fontaine.
The drinking statistics that were released and are being promoted to students was collected through a series of surveys implemented at the high school last year. Students and parents were surveyed and Fontaine feels the results are very accurate.
The data collected from Stoughton High is comparable or a little lower than national averages, said Fontaine.“The numbers are still too high,” she said.
With education and accurate facts, Fontaine hopes students will follow the trend and not drink.
“Positive reinforcement always works better than punishment—we need to reward the ones who are doing it right and help the ones who are not to change and make the right choices,” said Fontaine.
The “WE ARE U-KNIGHTED” campaign is being funded through an $87,000 grant from the Attorney General’s office. The funding runs out on Dec. 31 but Fontaine hopes to continue the effort to make sure kids know the truth.
Stoughton High School Principal Brett Dickens said the campaign is terrific, especially the event held last month.
“The messages were visible and powerful and generated a lot of conversation among faculty and students,” said Dickens.
She said it is unfortunate how destructive behavior gets a lot of attention and often leads people to believe it is the more common behavior.
“We have long known that the majority of our students do not engage in destructive behavior of any kind,” said Dickens. “It is wonderful to have the youth commission getting the message out to the community and rewarding kids for positive behaviors.”