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Ninety-three percent of principals said they referred student victims of dating violence to counselors, while 85 percent said they informed the victim’s parents or guardians.Yet federal data indicate that many public schools, particularly high-poverty campuses, lack counselors.Youth from low-income backgrounds, those from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and LGBTQ students are at the greatest risk of experiencing such harm. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that adolescents who experienced teen dating violence were more likely than those who didn’t to report being bullied on school grounds and missing school due to feeling unsafe.Victims of dating abuse are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and to consider suicide, than their non-abused peers.De Leon, who has seen her peers being physically and emotionally abusive to one another, now recognizes the red flags—and she wants more support for victims from the adults in her school building.“I think we have to start with the principals at the schools, because they’re the leaders,” she said.
While he called the study’s findings “deeply troubling,” he said that dating abuse hasn’t been cited specifically by principals as an area of focus for the national organization, alluding to state policies that oversee teen dating violence training and education.A member of the Domestic Violence Network’s middle- and high-school Youth Network, De Leon plans activities to inform students about unsafe or unhealthy relationships.She’s also a student leader with the “No More Club,” which seeks to end the silence on dating abuse.The four-page questionnaire was sent in the 2015-16 year to 750 randomly selected public-school principals, with a 54 percent response rate.
Although a majority of high-school principals (57 percent) had assisted a teen dating-violence victim in the past two years, more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said they lacked formal training, and a majority (62 percent) reported that teachers and staff in their schools hadn’t been recently trained, either.
Principals who overlook or minimize relationship violence, the researcher said, lose sight of the most important consideration: student welfare.