Prevention Education in Schools
“10/10! Would do it again!”
“It was very helpful, especially since this is becoming more common.”
“We haven’t learned much about this yet, so it was great to learn about it!”
“I liked how the presenters were open and not scared to talk about anything.”
“I really thought this inspired me to take action because I noticed some random person online for being called a “b—–” for so-called bullying that they didn’t even do. I feel like standing up that person [who is being cyberbullied] now, as it wasn’t their fault.”
“I felt that Tri-Valley Haven is there for me.”
These are some of the comments we received from ninth-graders after our Healthy Relationships and Bullying Prevention presentations at Foothill High School and Amador High School in Pleasanton this semester. During the school year, I visit local middle schools and high schools to talk to teens about healthy relationships, teen dating violence and bullying in an age-appropriate way. At the end of each presentation, I hand out surveys to see how effective our presentations are and get anonymous feedback from the students.
Recently we lost all federal and state funding for our youth education programs due to a cut in California funding. As a result, we’ve had to trim many of our presentations down from 2-day classes to 1-day condensed classes in Livermore and Dublin schools. Fortunately, the Pleasanton Youth Commission has continued to fund our Prevention Education program. Thanks to their generosity, we are able to continue providing 2-day presentations to health classes at Pleasanton schools.
During our full 2-day presentations, we have the opportunity to do more activities with the students to get them talking to each other about dating violence and bullying. One of our most popular activities is called “What Would You Do?” During this activity, we read out different scenarios about dating violence or bullying. Then we ask students move to different corners of the room depending on whether they would do nothing (no intervention), step in on their own (primary intervention) or get help (secondary intervention).
After students have the opportunity to share what they might do, our presenters may “change up” the scenarios. If the scenario is about bullying, we might ask some follow-up questions, such as, “What if the student being bullied is your friend?” or “What if the bullying was happening online? Would that change how you intervene?”
Wow, does this activity get teens talking!
Whether we’re talking about dating violence or bullying, each student brings their own unique perspective into the conversation. Sometimes students disagree with their classmates’ suggestions for intervention; other times the entire class ends up standing the same corner of the room.
In one class at Amador, I asked students what they might do if they witnessed a guy violently shove a girl to the ground on their way to class. Many of the guys in the class said they would step in and confront the guy. But several of the girls said they would feel more comfortable getting help from a trusted adult or friend. These girls mentioned that they would be afraid of getting hurt if they tried to confront a male student.
Then I told students to imagine the same scenario but with one detail changed: “What would you do if you say a girl shove a guy to the ground?”
Almost every girl said they would feel comfortable talking to the abusive student (in this scenario, another girl) by themselves. Only two guys said they would still say something. Instead nearly all of the guys said they would be hesitant to intervene. When I asked why, many of them said they wouldn’t know what to say or do in this situation. One student even admitted, “I’ve never heard of this happening to guys.”
This sparked a discussion between the students about assumptions or expectations we might have about who can or cannot be a victim of violence. Many of the students have been encouraged to take a stand against bullying in the past. But often our presentations are the first time students have had the chance to discuss what intervening might actually entail. As presenters, we encourage students to think of intervening indirectly, such as asking for help from a teacher or friend, as well as being assertive.
During this particular conversation, one of the guys mentioned that he would be worried about embarrassing the victim (another guys) if he told the abusive girl to stop. So we discussed other ways he might intervene, such as getting help from a teacher so he didn’t have to directly intervene or checking in with the male student in private after the incident.
One of the girls who said they felt comfortable intervening even suggested, “You could always ask one of us to help.”
There are many ways students can safely intervene when they see dating violence or bullying happen at their school. It’s just a matter of getting students to consider their options.
upport groups provide a safe space for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their experiences and connect with each other. Tri-Valley Haven’s support groups usually run 8 weeks and they are closed groups (meaning participants must sign up for the group in advance). New participants are only accepted at the start of each support group.