Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna joined U.S. Senator Mike Crapo and teens, educators, parents and advocates from across Idaho for a policy roundtable today to discuss the prevention of digital dating abuse and “sexting” in adolescent relationships
Teen dating violence is a real issue in the state of Idaho. According to the most recent data, 11 percent of Idaho students were hit, slapped or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. Ten percent have been forced to have sex when they did not want to.
In the ever-changing virtual world, digital media does play a role. In 2009, 17.7 percent of Idaho students were electronically bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, web sites or text messaging.
In his remarks to the group, Superintendent Luna explained that the Idaho State Department of Education is working with community partners to address the issue and is continuing to make progress.
The Department has developed partnerships, such as Start Strong Idaho, which is a collaborative effort among the Department, St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, and other youth and health care organizations.
In addition, through the state’s Safe & Drug-Free School Programs, the Department has focused heavily on creating healthy school climates that establish a norm of respect in every school across Idaho. This includes clear policies around student interactions and programs that increase self-confidence and establish boundary-setting in relationships.
One example is the Department’s efforts to expand Rachel’s Challenge to Idaho schools. Rachel’s Challenge is a school-wide program that encourages Idaho students to step up and prevent bullying, harassment and other types of violence before they start. Last year, the Department provided more than $50,000 in grants to 40 public schools to implement the Rachel’s Challenge program.
Catherine Pierce with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women said Idaho has developed some groundbreaking programs involving teens in prevention efforts. In the past four years, the Idaho teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Project has made more than 550 presentations to 15,000 teens across Idaho. Pierce called that “truly extraordinary.”
“Teens working with parents and educators must be part of the solution,” she said.
Superintendent Luna told the group that ultimately the prevention of teen dating violence and all violence and intimidation among students is a community problem and requires a community solution.
“It is everyone’s responsibility – communities, schools, youth organizations, faith-based organizations, parents, and teens to work together to prevent teen dating abuse,” he said. “We never want to look back and ask, ‘Could we have done more? Should we have done more?’”
To learn more, please visit the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence web site or learn more about the That’s Not Cool campaign.
~ Melissa M.