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Researchers assess role schools can play in preventing, responding to teen dating violence

A nationwide study of school principals has shown that while the majority had assisted a victim of teen dating violence recently, most of them had never received formal training in this area and their school did not have a specific protocol for dealing with the issue.

The most common approaches of school principals for responding to teen dating violence found are discussed in an article published in Violence and Gender, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert Inc. publishers.

“Teen dating violence is, unfortunately, a child and adolescent social and health problem,” Dr. Amy Thompson, professor of public health at The University of Toledo, said. “Even if minor, victims of teen dating violence can suffer from major consequences, including depression or suicidal tendencies.

“This study surveyed school administrators in an effort to help inform better practices and policymaking on dealing with this dangerous issue.”

The article titled “Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence: A National Study of School Principals’ Perspectives and Practices” was co-authored by Thompson; Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, associate professor of health science at Ball State University, who received a doctorate in health education from UT in 2010; and colleagues from Illinois State University, the University of Houston, the Indiana Area Health Education Center, and the Illinois Education Association.

The researchers provide data related to teen dating violence prevention practices by schools, training to assist victims provided to personnel within the past two years, and the most common ways principals assisted victims of teen dating violence.

“Our No. 1 goal is to help school administrators prevent teen dating violence,” Thompson said. “We also want to help school leaders establish policies for teen dating violence and helping victims.”

“This article is truly an eye-opener. According to the authors, teen dating violence has emerged as a ‘significant child and adolescent social and health problem,’ but school administrators and staff are not equipped to address it,” said Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole, editor-in-chief of Violence and Gender, and director of the Forensic Sciences Program at George Mason University.

“More training is absolutely essential to address this problem effectively,” O’Toole said. “This first of its kind national study will help principals, teachers and others realize their own deficiencies and develop proper procedures to address an issue that affects our children and adolescents in every school throughout the country.”