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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, But Schools Have No Idea How to Stop Such Acts

Muncie, Ind. – February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but a study by Ball State University found that 76 percent of the school principals reported that they did not have a protocol in their schools to respond to an incident of teen dating violence.

About 57 percent of school principals said that they had assisted a survivor of teen dating violence in the past two years. Disciplinary action against perpetrators of teen dating violence was sanctioned by 27 percent principals only.

Preventing and responding to incidents of teen dating violence is not a high priority for most American schools, even though the majority of high schools have assisted survivors, says Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor in Ball State's College of Health and author "Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence: A National Study of School Principals' Perspectives and Practices.” The study was published in Violence and Gender, and is based on a national survey of high school principals.

“The lack of formal protocol is a key element in assisting student survivors of teen dating violence,” Khubchandani said. “School principals also perceived that dating violence is a minor issue and ‘we are not here to deal with dating problems,’” he said “Some principals who wanted to help victims of dating violence reported personnel shortage in their schools and that faculty and staff don’t have good training and skills.”

About 62 percent of respondents also said training to assist survivors of dating violence has not been provided to personnel in their schools in the last two years, and 68 percent of responding principals had never been formally trained and educated on issues related to teen dating violence.

The study also found:

  • The most common method of responding to a survivor of teen dating violence was referral to a school counselor, calling the parents and guardians or referral to legal authorities and police.
  • School principals who received formal training on teen dating violence and perceived dating violence to be a serious problem were significantly more likely to assist survivors of dating violence.  
  • The majority of school principals could not answer four out of nine knowledge questions related to teen dating violence.
  • Most schools do not post information on teen dating violence that is easily and publicly available to students.
  • Most of the principals believe that school counselors have a major role in assisting survivors of teen dating violence, but did not believe that health teachers or students have a major role in assisting survivors.

Khubchandani points out that the study is the first national assessment of the role of school principals in preventing and responding to teen dating violence.

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