“Teen dating violence is a growing public health concern, and there really hasn’t been a ton of research on how extensive it is and specifically what resources are
there at the school level to help students,” said Amy Thompson, a professor of public health at the University of Toledo.
Thompson said that UT’s Department of Public Health began researching teen dating violence to help school administrators more effectively prevent it.
In December 2017, Thompson and colleagues around the country wrote an article for Mary Ann Liebert Inc. publishers titled, “Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence: A National Study of School Principals’ Perspectives and Practices,” to study the availability of training and resources at schools.
The study found that, out of a randomly surveyed sample of 405 high school principals, 68 percent never received formal training on teen dating violence, and 76 percent of their schools didn’t have a protocol to respond to an incident of teen dating violence.
According to the article, the most common way for a principal to assist a victim of teen dating violence is to refer the student to the school counselor.
Thompson says that school officials need to be better informed about the sources available to help students with issues of teen dating violence.
“It’s overlooked, more so than obesity or drug abuse, for example, and it can affect someone’s physical health and mental health,” Thompson said.
When asked if UT officials are trained on teen dating violence, Thompson said no, but she added that the UT faculty senate is offering first-time training to UT school officials and graduate assistants Feb. 1 on how to spot a student who might be in crisis or who might have some mental health concerns.
Alex Burton, a third-year media communication student, said that students and faculty need to be taught about teen dating violence because kids don’t always have parents at home to differentiate between right and wrong.
“I think it needs to be incorporated in the lesson plan as early as middle school,” he said.
Based on Thompson’s article on the national assessment of school principals’ perspectives, current practices in schools call for greater emphasis on preventing teen dating violence.
“I feel that schools don’t consider important issues like this one when planning their policies,” said Tevin Webb, a third-year film student. “I never learned anything about it.”
Thompson found several UT students who didn’t know the location of the counseling center on UT’s main campus.
“A lot of the time, victims are made to believe that violence afflicted on them is their fault, and it’s not,” Thompson said. “There are resources available to help them and other people just like them. We need to create the social norm that violence is not okay.”
UT’s Counseling Center is in Rocket Hall, room 1810. For more information or to schedule a meeting, call 419-530-2426.