New Law Addressing
Dating Violence in Schools:
What You Can Do

by Bronwyn Blake, Texas Advocacy Project

According to a statewide survey, 75 percent of 16 to 24 year-old Texans have either personally experienced dating violence or know someone who has (1) . This statistic highlights the importance of House Bill 121, which mandates that all school districts in Texas adopt and implement a dating violence policy. Effective immediately, the new policies must include (1) a definition of dating violence, (2) sections on safety planning, (3) enforcement of protective orders, (4) school-based alternatives to protective orders, (5) training for teachers and administrators, (6) counseling for affected students, and (7) awareness education for students and parents/guardians. View text of the bill.

What does this mean for schools, and how can you as a Victim Services Advocate get involved? The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has added appropriate provisions into their model Policy Manual Update 81. Once adopted, this will give school districts a bare bones policy, but it will need to be supplemented with local regulations and programs. To help fulfill this need, the Texas Dating Violence Prevention Team, a coalition of various non-profits and government agencies, is encouraging schools to contact their local domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center to see if they already have a dating violence program that can be adopted by the schools. The Team has also compiled a manual entitled "How To Create a Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program," culled from model programs in Boston, Rhode Island, New York, California, and Austin. The document is available on the www.women-law.org website.

So what can you do as a Victim Services Advocate? TASB says that they "know districts are looking for guidance on this issue." Your expertise could mean all the difference. Please reach out to your local schools. Whether or not you are part of an existing dating violence program, you can use the above document to aide school districts and community groups in the development of a comprehensive dating violence program. Another way you can help is by educating teens on this issue. As we gear up for the 3rd National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week in February, the Texas Dating Violence Prevention Team has once again created a toolkit containing posters, warning signs, fact sheets, suggestions for classroom activities, videos, brochures and wallet cards for use in schools and communities to help them observe the Week. (See past materials). Toolkits will be available to schools, shelters, and individuals who want to educate teens and get them excited about this issue. This fall, we are offering free trainings throughout the state on how to use the toolkits. More information will be posted on the above link as we have it.

If you have questions about the Texas Team or their work, please contact Bronwyn Blake at the Texas Advocacy Project, bblake@women-law.org.


Footnotes:

1. "Know the Red Flags" a study by the Texas Council on Family Violence, 2006. Funded by the Office of the Attorney General and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.