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Anti-dating violence education expected to become law in NJ

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : School districts throughout New Jersey will have to make anti-dating violence part of the curriculum if Gov. Christie signs a bill approved by the Legislature. The full Senate on Monday gave the final go-ahead to the bipartisan bill aimed at fighting dating violence among middle and high school students.

“Any parent knows that teens can be very secretive when it comes to their personal life so our schools may very well be the frontline of defense when it comes to preventing dating violence,” said Assemblywoman Joan M. Voss (D-Bergen), a co-sponsor of the bill. “On a given day, teachers may spend more time around dating partners than parents.

“It’s important that we teach staff to be vigilant for destructive dating patterns.”

Under the bill, each school district will implement a policy developed by a special task force for grades 7 – 12 — but which must contain, at minimum:

* a statement that dating violence will not be tolerated;

* information on the warning signs of dating violence and community resources available to address it;

* dating violence reporting procedures;

* guidelines for responding to at-school incidents of dating violence; and

* discipline procedures specific to at-school incidents of dating violence.

The measure was approved by the Assembly last week by a 77-0 vote.  It now heads to the Governor’s desk.

“Teen dating abuse is far more prevalent than most realize,” said fellow co-sponsor Assemblyman David W. Wolfe (R-Ocean/Monmouth). “It’s a silent epidemic that affects more than 1.5 million students annually, the consequences of which often results in serious injury and even death.

“We need to do more than merely ‘allow’ our school officials to educate on matters of dating abuse. Such education must be mandatory.”

Voss added: “The ramifications of dating violence can have a profound effect on a teen well into adulthood. Hopefully this bill will go a long way towards preventing any unnecessary tragedies.”

A-2920 requires the state Department of Education to establish a task force to develop the policy and puts the onus on school districts to incorporate it into health education.

According to the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Project (NTDVPP), one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner — a figure far exceeding victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.  Additionally, one-quarter of high school girls have been reported victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.

The study also showed that victims of dating violence and rape are greater suicide risks, that they are more likely than average teens to become pregnant or to contract an STD.

“Teens need to learn what a healthy relationship is and how to protect themselves if it should become abusive,” Wolfe said.

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