Dating violence policies are often found at the high school level and focus on disciplinary and intervention responses rather than prevention. But, research and experience have shown that more effective school policies encourage healthy relationships and promote violence prevention, while also addressing proper responses to teen dating violence incidents.
In crafting and enacting your school policy, your approach matters. Here are a few lessons that Start Strong learned through extensive policy work.
- Choose Your Words: Language matters, so choose wisely. Loaded terms like “perpetrator” and “victim” are judgmental and conflict with the accepting intent of a healthy relationships policy. Choose terms like “alleged offender” or “accused student” and “targeted student” instead. Words can reinforce values and empower, like using the word “upstander” instead of “bystander.” Also be aware of the climate in your area, and choose words that align your policy with state laws and regional trends.
- Connect to Other Issues: In the policy realm, it is rare to start with a blank slate. Leverage and find ways to intersect with work that’s already been done or is being done on policies or issues related to teen dating violence prevention.
Possible Policy Entry Points:
- Sexual harassment
- Electronic abuse
- Gang prevention
- Violence prevention
- LGBTQ and hate crimes
- Teen pregnancy prevention
- School climate