Teen dating curriculum
Five states, including Pennsylvania, are considering bills to encourage or require middle and high schools to teach lessons aimed at preventing teen dating violence.
At a school in poverty-stricken East Oakland, California, Emilio Ortega asks the teenage boys he counsels how it would feel to see their mother, or sister, abused by a husband or boyfriend.
To earn his support, he said, teen dating violence prevention lessons would have to be integrated into what’s already being taught. It was eventually altered to encourage such programs, but failed to become law.
While focused on teens, the bill would have had far-reaching benefits, she said.
Georgia approved the first such law in 2003, and since then 21 states have followed suit.
When Ortega teaches about dating violence, he tries to knock down gender stereotypes, telling students that men don’t have to be aggressive.
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Millersville University students attend a candlelight vigil last year for slain student Karlie Hall, 18, in Millersville, Pa.
The Madison Park Business & Art Academy is one of 10 Oakland-area schools involved in “Dating Matters,” a CDC program that teaches students how to detect a troubled relationship — their own or somebody else’s — as well as how to prevent violence, and how to help somebody who has been abused.
It’s very unlikely children are having these conversations at home, Leigh said, so “there is space for educators to step in and offer the prevention education.” In states such as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, the grieving parents of teenage girls killed by ex-boyfriends pushed lawmakers to take action.
Many states have modeled their policies on the Lindsay Ann Burke Act in Rhode Island, which passed in 2007 and was the first to require the education in middle and high schools.
Lindsay was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2005 after repeatedly trying to end their relationship.
Her mother Ann, a middle school health teacher at the time, helped the state craft its law.
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About one in 10 high school students who dated in 2013 reported being physically or sexually abused by a partner during the past year, according to the most recent survey of high school students by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.