Voices: Domestic violence and schools

Diana Kurniawan, a graduate student at the CU-Denver School of Public Affairs, says it’s time for schools to get serious about stopping the cycle of violence.

High school today is not what high school 10 years ago used to be. There are Apple computers in high school libraries, and Pizza Hut pizzas are now available for lunch. However, much to my love and satisfaction on the progress of education, one thing to my heart is still left unattended – violence prevention for students at public high schools.

Denver high school students head to class in this EdNews file photo.

Growing up in East Los Angeles, I was exposed to a high school surrounded by policemen, teen dating violence, gangs and teen pregnancies. The norm at that time was not to be admired. However, all of the environmental violence I was exposed to, such as witnessing fights during lunch hours, bullying or girls-on-girls competition in dating, were all preventable violence.

The most difficult part for other students in my school was coming home to a place of domestic abuse, or even worse, child abuse, which Los Angeles was no stranger to. That was the environment of some of my classmates, and of course, I became a witness of suffering because I know some of these classmates and some of them had gotten into fights and gang violence during school hours.

Last July, a study by Ball State University surfaced on Huffington Post showing that 81.3 percent of high school counselors are ill equipped to deal with teen dating violence. As a place for education, shouldn’t high school be a safe haven where students come into maturity embraced by the school staff, teachers and counselors? Shouldn’t high school also be a place to learn how to prevent the issues in life that could destroy what education built up – such as domestic violence, bullying, teen dating violence, teen pregnancies and sexual assaults?

It is a part of education readiness and prevention that K-12 schools should develop in the future because high school is the portion of K-12 education where teen angst and puberty mixes into life; and that’s exactly when violence prevention should be taught.

Where does Colorado stand?

Now let’s see Colorado’s progress so far. To tell you the truth, Colorado is only inches away from developing this groundbreaking idea.

Malcolm Goggin, a professor at CU-Denver’s School of Public Affairs, has been reaching out to the state of Colorado with this similar topic but for a younger group of students at elementary schools.

The idea of the research project he is working on is “Building School-based Capacity to Help Children and Youth who Witness Domestic Violence: An Assessment of the END Violence Project.”  The logic behind the END Violence Project is to train school administrators, teachers, counselors and educational staff in schools to deal more effectively with children who witness domestic violence at home. By building capacity, the school staff can identify and prevent any students from acting out as a result of the violence they have experienced at home and can provide intervention to help resolve the problem through partnerships with other violence prevention organizations.

Another progressive program for violence prevention at the state level is the Youth Violence Prevention Integrated Curriculum handled through the Injury, Suicide and Violence Prevention Program of the Colorado State Department of Public Health and Environment. The curriculum integrates violence prevention education content into academic standards for reading and writing through Colorado state exam practice tests. This method will prove to give students a stronger awareness of what violence entails and how to curb its prevalence in their own personal lives.

In case you aren’t convinced yet that Colorado is just inches away from developing a high school curriculum on violence prevention, there is an organization ready to be a collaboration agency for the state and the local academia. Project PAVE, or Promoting Alternatives to Violence through Education, is an organization that has been around since 1986 and partners with elementary, middle and high schools throughout our community to identify younger victims of relationship violence and provide counseling for these young victims.

So speaking of progress, Colorado has the organization, the state program and the research team to prove that violence prevention even at the school personnel level will benefit the students. Why not put more education on violence prevention when there has been such controversy about the prevalence of bullying and teen dating violence at the level where it can happen most, high schools?

(The interdisciplinary team of END Violence Project includes: Barbara Paradiso and Sam Cole from the CU-Denver Center of Domestic Violence; Beverly Buck from the CU-Denver Center of Education, Policy and Analysis; Malcolm Goggin of the CU-Denver School of Public Affairs; professor Farah Ibrahim of the CU-Denver School of Education; and Director Rita Smith, of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).

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