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For the study, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of high-school principals on their knowledge of teen dating violence—defined in the study as verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse—as well as their schools’ policies, and their beliefs about the role of school personnel in both preventing dating abuse and assisting victims.The four-page questionnaire was sent in the 2015-16 year to 750 randomly selected public-school principals, with a 54 percent response rate.For example, respondents were most likely to assume that counselors and parents are preferable to students’ peers in assisting victims.Ninety-three percent of principals said they referred student victims of dating violence to counselors, while 85 percent said they informed the victim’s parents or guardians.While he called the study’s findings “deeply troubling,” he said that dating abuse hasn’t been cited specifically by principals as an area of focus for the national organization, alluding to state policies that oversee teen dating violence training and education.Dozens of states have enacted legislation that addresses teen dating violence, according to research compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Bob Farrace, the public-affairs director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said he encourages high-school principals to take an honest and transparent look at their own data, identify the trends in teen dating violence incidents, and address them appropriately.
Lindsay Stawick, who directs the Domestic Violence Network’s youth programming, said most inquiries for dating-violence-prevention training come from teachers—at De Leon’s high school, for its part, it was a social worker.
Stawick said she’s never received a request from a principal to provide training to their students or faculty—a reality she interprets as a hindrance to real progress on the issue.“My goal in schools and with young people is to change the culture that leads to violence,” Stawick said.
The Expect Respect Program has been serving Austin schools since 1989 and continues to evolve to meet local needs.
The program manual provides curricula that is developmentally and culturally relevant, inclusive of gay and straight relationships, and uses art, poetry, and theatre games to help young people explore relationship issues.
More than one-third of 10th-graders (35 percent) have been physically or verbally abused by dating partners, while a similar percentage are perpetrators of such abuse.