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According to Sedona Red Rock High School Principal Darrin Karuzas and Assistant Principal Deana DeWitt, administrators are working to address results from the 2016 Arizona Youth Survey that indicate two out of five sophomores who took the survey did not feel safe at school.

First up, Karuzas said that he and DeWitt will be forming a student advisory committee in the next few weeks. It is not the first of its kind, but with the current iteration Karuzas intends to “really talk to them about real-life concerns,” becoming a “vehicle to talk and discuss” issues of safety, substance abuse and negative family situations reflected in the survey.


In acknowledgement of safety concerns, in the last two weeks SRRHS hosted a second Every 15 Minutes presentation, which focuses on the impact of substance abuse-related vehicular accidents. For the first time, the school also hosted the Boys to Men mentoring program, which seeks to provide young men with affirming male role models. Karuzas said he saw a need for such positive intervention in the school’s male student population.

“We thought that would be of high value,” Karuzas said, adding that several students are now looking to form a Boys to Men after-school group.

SRRHS has also partnered with the Verde Valley Human Trafficking Coalition, the Verde Valley Mental Health Coalition, MATForce and the Greater Verde Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.
Efforts to address student safety issues are explicit concessions to the fact that high school students are living in a difficult world, according to Karuzas. In the Verde Valley, where a larger than average portion of students live in poverty and single-parent homes, growing into an adult with people to look up to can seem an impossible task.

“We are answering to the data in this survey [but] we try not to take it out of context,” DeWitt said, explaining that the Arizona Youth Survey also measures Family Risk Factor — an indicative metric in which the 2016 SRRHS sophomore class scored particularly high. “That particular cohort was way above state average .... These children are facing some major challenges outside of school.”

Karuzas agreed, saying, “It’s hard enough to be a kid now, even in a traditional two-parent home.”

Nonetheless, Karuzas and DeWitt said they are not trying to excuse or negate the data.

“It’s not pointing fingers,” DeWitt said. “It’s a challenging climate right now.”

“There’s no doubt about it: The stats are the stats,” Karuzas said, adding that upon receipt of the Arizona Youth Survey, he immediately flipped to see where the school had fallen short over previous years.

The survey contains only one question about feeling safe at school, yet the rise in students reporting an unsafe environment concerned both top SRRHS administrators.

“That’s what we care about — student safety,” Karuzas said. “We will ask kids questions. ‘Tell us if there’s something out there we need to know.’”

Both Karuzas and DeWitt said that disciplinary measures have been on the rise for several years and stressed the need to maintain not only high standards of conduct but also support.

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