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School Policies Are Necessary to Prevent Dating Abuse

Blog post

Research shows that dating abuse compromises student safety and academic achievement and that school policies are key to preventing abuse on campus.

That is why over 25 states have adopted laws to address dating abuse in schools. Read why California should do the same:

Students Can’t Learn if They Don’t Feel Safe

  • California schools have “an obligation to protect pupils from mistreatment from other children” and to protect the right of every student “to attend campuses which are safe, secure, and peaceful.”[1]
  • The pervasiveness of abusive behaviors occurring on school campuses affects the overall school climate and distracts students from their focus on learning.[2][3]
  • Dating abuse victims have lower academic performance and are at greater risk for truancy and dropout.[4][5]
  • According to analyses of data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey for San Francisco and Los Angeles, high school girls who were victims of physical dating violence in the past 12 months were more than twice as likely not to attend school due to feeling unsafe at school – or on the way to or from school – on one or more occasions in the past 30 days compared to non abused girls (20 percent versus 8 percent).[6]

School Policies Are Key to Effective Dating Abuse Prevention

  • research study of 30 New York Middle Schools found that low-cost, school-wide dating abuse interventions tied to the disciplinary code were effective in reducing victimization and perpetration of physical and sexual dating violence by 50% for up to six months after the intervention.[7] 
  • In 2010, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Blue Shield of California FoundationFutures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund) and Break the Cycle released a model policy which reflects the latest research on effective school-based efforts to prevent dating abuse. The national expert policy work group concluded that policies and practices that recognize the full continuum of prevention, early intervention, corrective guidance, and a protocol for active intervention are required to maintain a school environment that is free of dating abuse. District policies and guidelines in student handbooks are necessary because they establish a school environment where prevention of dating abuse is recognized as a priority.[8]
  • Since 2010, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has recognized the role that state policymakers can play in preventing dating abuse, and has tracked teen dating violence state legislation. The NCSL recommends that policymakers analyze and evaluate existing state and local policies and practices to identify effective strategies to prevent teen dating violence.[9]
  • In 2008, the CA Attorney General’s Office stated that “schools need to develop a set of objectives and guidelines on what the school community can do to prevent and respond to [teen dating violence],” and encouraged schools to develop a teen dating violence policy and protocol.[10]
  • In 2008, the National Foundation for Women Legislators adopted a resolution encouraging every state to adopt legislation that provides that each public school district implement a policy against teen dating violence and abuse.[11]
  • School interventions that focus on creating a positive school environment can increase academic achievement, reduce dropout, reduce violence including dating abuse, and increase teacher retention.[12]

[1] California Constitution, Article 1, § 28(c).
[2] Eaton, Davis, Barrios, Brener & Noonan. (2007.) Behaviors among U.S. high school students participation, co-occurrence, and early initiation of risk behaviors among U.S. high school students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 585.
 [3] California Attorney General’s Office. (2008). A Guide to Addressing Teen Dating Violence and Sexual Violence in a School Setting. Sacramento, CA: Author.
[4] California Attorney General’s Office and the California Department of Education. (2004.) A Preventable Epidemic: Teen Dating Violence and Its Impact on School Safety and Academic Achievement. Sacramento, CA: Author.
[5] Eaton, DK, KS Davis, L Barrios, ND Brener and RK Noonan. (2007.) Associations of dating violence victimization with lifetime participation, co-occurrence, and early initiation of risk behaviors among US high school students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22: 585.
[6] Davis, A. (2008.)  Interpersonal and physical dating violence among teens. Oakland, CA: The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus.  
[7] Taylor, B, Stein, ND, Woods, D, and E Mumford. (2011.) Shifting Boundaries: Final Report on an Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in New York City Middle Schools. Washington, DC: Policy Executive Research Forum. 
[8] Futures Without Violence and Break the Cycle. (2010.) A School Policy to Increase Safety: Promote Healthy Relationships and Prevent Teen Dating Violence Through Improved School Climate. San Francisco, CA: Author. 
[9] National Conference of State Legislatures. (2012.) Teen Dating Violence. Washington, DC: Author.
[10] California Attorney General’s Office. (2008.) A Guide to Addressing Teen Dating and Sexual Violence in a School Setting. Sacramento, CA: Author.
[11] National Foundation for Women Legislators. (2008.) Joint Resolution in Support of Teen Dating Violence Education. Washington, DC: Author.
[12] Cohen, J, Pickeral, T, and P Levine. (2010). The Foundation for democracy: Social, emotional, ethical, cognitive skills and dispositions in K-12 schools.” Inter-American Journal of Education for Democracy, 3(1): 73-94.