Overburdened teachers sometimes complain that they are required to teach too much material that has nothing to do with academics, but a subject some state legislators want them to teach in middle and high schools could save lives. Bills moving in the Florida Legislature recognize the alarming growth of teen dating violence and call for schools to teach students about it.
At least one in 11 Florida teens has been hit, slapped or otherwise hurt by someone they were dating, according to a statewide study last year. Experts say the real number is probably much higher, since teens are secretive about dating violence and the figures don't include verbal and emotional abuse, which also count as dating violence.
One bill (HB 467) sponsored by Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, would require schools to add instruction about dating violence and prevention to the existing health education curriculum in grades 7 through 12. Students would learn what dating violence is and how it often begins with criticizing or yelling and advances to pinching, hitting and forced sexual activity. Students would learn why it is wrong, the warning signs, where to report dating violence, and the components of a healthy dating relationship.
The bill and its Senate companion (SB 642) also would require school boards to adopt a policy prohibiting dating violence on campus or during school activities, with violators subject to school discipline, and would require training for teachers and school staff.
Some might argue that parents, not schools, should be teaching children about dating violence. But many parents aren't doing it. Teens need to be taught that any form of violence in their relationships is wrong and must be reported to an understanding adult. In this case, a few hours of instruction at school could prevent tragedy later.