High school introduces teen violence prevention classes

February 10, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Joseph Lentol pushed to have funding for teen violence education programs included in the state budget. Photo courtesy Lentol’s office
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An innovative program aimed at preventing teen dating violence is going to become part of the curriculum at a Williamsburg high school.

The Jessica Tush Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program will become a pilot program later this month at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, officials announced.

The program, named after Jessica Tush, a 19-year-old a Staten Island woman who was slain as the result of dating violence in 2008, will involve 12 students who will undergo a three-month training program offered by Day One, a youth dating violence advocacy group, with the help of TOGETHER, a youth and police empowerment program.

The 12 students will formulate what they learned into a curriculum and video series. The curriculum and video series will then be taught to all ninth grade classes. Day One will also provide professional development for teachers, counselors, and administrators.

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“Teenagers learn best when they learn from one another. This project will empower the student participants to play an active role in designing a curriculum that will be used in the classroom,” said Giovanni D’Amato, assistant principal of Williamsburg High School for ArchitectureandDesign.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-North Brooklyn), U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan-North Brooklyn) and Public Advocate Letitia James were joined by New York State Regent Kathleen Cashin, teen dating violence prevention advocates and dating violence survivors to announce the launch of the program last week.

“Programs like these are essential to protecting our youth, and informing teenagers at the earliest stage possible,” Lentol said. “The videos and lessons will certainly have a dramatic impact on the way teen dating violence is discussed and handled within New York City schools and I am wholeheartedly in support of this wonderful program.”

The funds to begin the pilot program were allocated in last year’s state education budget at Lentol’s request.

Additional funding to create a toolkit that would allow the program to be easily replicated throughout all New York City public schools is still in the process of being secured, according to Lentol’s office.

“Experts tell us one in three girls in the US will experience physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse from a dating partner, and young women between 16 and 24 experience the highest levels of partner violence; nearly three times the national average.” Maloney said. “One of the best ways to combat these crimes is to educate our youth as early as possible.”

James said she believes the program will be successful.

“Education is one of the best tools we have to prevent teen dating violence. This pilot program will empower young people with knowledge to make the right decisions when it comes to dating and relationships so there is never another tragedy like Jessica Tush,” she said.

“Learning to navigate new and different relationships is one of the most difficult transitions from childhood to adulthood, and teaching teens about recognizing and preventing intimate partner violence is an important part of that,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights-North Brooklyn).

The program is needed, according to Stephanie Nilva, executive director of Day One. “High quality academics are wasted when a student is frightened to attend class because of an abusive classmate. The safety and health of student relationships are of equal importance to their academic subjects,” she said.

“Without respect for the rights and personal boundaries of others, apathy begins to develop and violence becomes acceptable. The resulting apathy and violence, both of which are impediments to the civil society, can only be prevented if children are educated to respect the boundaries and rights of others,” said Gill Cornell, principal of Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design.



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