The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence has created a policy it wants schools to use to help prevent teen dating abuse and sexual harassment.
The Coalition partnered with the Department of Education to host a training seminar Friday and begin spreading the policy to educators and school officials.
Governor Mitch Daniels signed Heather’s Law in 2010, directing the Department of Education to develop response policies schools could use to address teen dating violence. The law focuses little on prevention, mentioning only practices that have worked in other areas.
The new best practice template the Coalition Against Domestic Violence developed goes further.
Colleen Yeakle, Coalition prevention coordinator, says making school policies more proactive, rather than just reactive, begins with teachers, administrators and school employees modeling the right behaviors and, as she puts it, stepping up when they see students getting it wrong in small ways.
“We feel like if we take seriously verbal harassment and discriminatory language that we’ll, over time, be responding to less forms of physical abuse,” she says.
David Woodward, Department of Education School Safety Academy Director, says teen dating violence isn’t a problem that can be corrected just through school policies.
“I mean, let’s face it – any time we have violence in the school, it’s a reflection of what’s happening in the community,” he says. “We just don’t want to leave our educators, I guess, high and dry without any guidance as to when it does bleed into the school.”
The Coalition’s best practice template will be posted on the Department of Education’s website but schools won’t be mandated to use it.