Preventing teen dating violence: Students help build curriculum to be used in pilot program

Preventing teen dating violence: Students help build curriculum to be used in pilot program

April 7th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Chris Walls, a docorate of nursing student researching teen dating violence, shows a public service announcement on individual definitions of the word love to Taylor Jones, a student at the Washington Alternative school, on Friday. For their classwork each student had to write down their own definition for the word and they read each other's out load.

Photo by Jay Bailey /Times Free Press.

Fourteen-year-old Taylor Jones said she saw her mom be the victim of domestic violence and wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Dating violence is not a good thing, and it needs to be stopped," said the Washington Alternative School eighth-grader.

Taylor is among dozens of students at Washington Alternative helping University of Tennessee at Chattanooga doctoral student Christopher Walls and Antonio McMath, a youth specialist with the Chattanooga Career Center, develop a teen dating violence curriculum, called TRAPP. It stands for Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program and is expected to be implemented in three Hamilton County schools when school starts again in August.

Dr. Helen Eigenberg, chairwoman of UTC's criminal justice department also is assisting with the curriculum.

Walls said the three schools that will pilot the curriculum have not been confirmed.

"Dating violence is real," said 16-year-old Kiefer Scott. "It caused someone to get killed."

According to news reports 16-year-old Lamunta Williams was shot and killed in March in part because of a physical altercation he had with a girl.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 9.8 percent of teenagers have experienced dating violence nationally but more than 11 percent of teens in Hamilton County say they have experienced dating violence, said Memorial Hospital's healthy communities and advocacy grant manager Elizabeth Walden.

Walden wrote the $134,000 grant backed by the Catholic Health Initiative that is funding the TRAPP curriculum.

A youth health risk survey was done in Hamilton County Schools in 2011. The question was "have you ever been hit, slapped or hurt physically or emotionally with a dating partner within the last year." Eleven percent of students affirmed that they have, said Walden.

There's a major push for violence prevention and this initiative focuses on teen dating violence because it's an area that hasn't received much attention, she said.

She said the goal is to get students to recognize dating violence and know who to call for help so violence will be reduced. Another objective is for teen violence to drop by 5 percent by 2014 and by 10 percent by 2020, said Walden.

McMath and Walls are talking to students at Washington Alternative to learn terms young people use concerning relationships and to get their perspective about how relationships should be. They're using information from the students to develop an online curriculum. There also will be a video, posters and media campaign, said Walden.

McMath asked students to write their definition for love on small postcards.

"Love is when you go through ups and downs," said 15-year-old Jay Shackleford.

Said Kiefer, "It's a feeling when you care about someone more than yourself."

Walls said it is important to head off dating violence because it tends to affect other areas of a child's life.

"Violence is a repeated cycle," he said. "If it's in a home, chances are it will come out in other areas."

Students laughed, talked and teased each other Fri day while drawing posters to illustrate dating violence.

They seemed detached from the subject, but at the end of class McMath noticed that one boy drew a picture of a woman who had been beaten up. When McMath asked the boy who was the woman, the boy said she was his mother.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at 423-757-6431 or yputman@timesfree