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Chautauqua County Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Berke on Monday night commended the Westfield School Board for participating in the county's health survey.

In December, the board agreed to participate in the wide-ranging study. But before the board officially embraced the study, board Vice President Mark Grohol had said he was concerned about facets of the study. "Conceptually, I like this," he had said.

On Monday, Berke noted that because of Grohol's questions, the survey's questions were revised somewhat.

"You are the only board that had that kind of intensity," Berke said.

Grohol asked Berke if the students would answer the survey truthfully.

Berke replied that students have answered the survey truthfully, once they learned that it was confidential.

"Is it perfect? No, but it gives (the county Health Department) a glimpse of what kids are doing," he said. "It's a step in the right direction. There is not a perfect model out there."

Board Member Jeanne Habig asked if the information would be shared with nonparticipating districts.

"You will have data specific to your school," Berke said, adding that specific district results will be made available only to the districts. Countywide results will be available to the public, he added.

University of Akron interns will conduct the survey Feb. 1. Children in fifth through 12th grades will participate.

Parents who do not want their children to participate in the study will fill out a withholding form, to be returned to the school by next Monday.

The survey is part of the response to Berke's 1997 announcement that a man identified as Nushawn Williams had sexual contact with 47 young women and that 13 of them contracted the AIDS virus.

"The goal of the survey is to examine adolescent knowledge, behavior and decision-making as it relates to risk-taking," Berke said about the survey in a letter to the district's parents.

The commissioner said children need to help shape policy that affects them.

In other business, the board appointed Mark Winslow to an open seat on the School Board.

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