*This blog post was previously written when I worked at The Prevention Researcher on March 14, 2011 while I was in graduate school at the University of Southern California and was asked to analyze a policy for one of my courses.
Exposure to violence in relationships, families, and communities influences children and adolescents. Adolescent intimate partner violence (IPV) can impede students achieving their academic goals, compromise their physical and mental health, and in extreme cases, result in injury (Schaeffer, Lee, Gallopin, Rosewater, Vollandt, Rosenbluth, et al., n.d.). IPV touches the lives of every person in the U.S. in one way or another. There are serious ramifications for adolescent IPV victims that include higher risks for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide and the likelihood that IPV will continue in their adult relationships (National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative, 2006). Dating in early adolescence often occurs in the context of peer relationships, which often happens in the schools (n.d.). With 30% of adolescents worrying about their personal physical safety in a relationship, one in four feeling pressured to date, and 14% reporting they would do almost anything to keep a boyfriend or girlfriend, the need for preventive policies have become more apparent (Teen Research Unlimited, 2006). While it is hard to say exactly how many adolescents have been affected by IPV, there have been projections that approximately 400,000 adolescents have been victim to IPV (Jouriles, Platt, & McDonald, 2009).
Last week our Associate Editor, Colette Kimball, introduced the Start Strong school policy (A School Policy to Increase Student Safety: The Promote Healthy Relationships and Prevent Dating Violence Through Improved School Climate) in her blog post. The Prevention Researcher was excited to hear about all the progress this initiative has made; we’d like to provide an in depth look at this school policy and the unique approach this policy takes.
The Start Strong school policy takes a preventive approach on establishing a positive social climate, where positive relationships are expected and reinforced by everyone on the school premises (Schaeffer, Lee, Gallopin, Rosewater, Vollandt, Rosenbluth, et al., n.d.). The authors of this policy believe investing in the prevention of violence requires: defining and teaching core behavioral expectations and skills utilizing evidence-based curricula; acknowledging and rewarding appropriate behavior (e.g., compliance to school rules, and safe, respectful peer-to-peer interactions); and establishing a consistent continuum of consequences for problem behavior (n.d.). These requirements are consistent with other existing school-wide interventions, such as School-Wide Positive Behavioral Supports and Positive Youth Development, which aim to improve discipline in schools (Ohser, Bear, Sprague, & Doyle, 2010).