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Often, from our perspective, these hot and heavy love affairs are like fireworks. At best, we’re talking about students distracted from learning. Many more teens are in relationships that, if not exactly like Rihanna and Chris Brown, are nonetheless unequal and unhealthy with one partner dominating the other. Let me see your phone,” mimics Maryland high school teacher Erika Chavarria. What contemporary media presents to teens and tweens as “love” today is actually about sex and control. This adds up to 1.5 million high school students last year alone. adolescents say they’ve experienced some kind of abuse—physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal—in their romantic relationships, and one out of 10 have been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend, according to data collected by Break the Cycle and its youth-oriented project, .At worst, we’re remembering the teen who retired Ohio teacher Deloris Rome Hudson will never forget: The one strangled to death by her boyfriend, one month before her high school graduation. And that can happen from the youngest grades on up, when we help students understand what a healthy relationship looks like, and know that they deserve that instead.
Today’s educators need to be alert to the signs of teen dating abuse. Learning how to develop and maintain positive relationships is part of the social and emotional learning that keeps us all safe and happy—and leads to academic success.
And this month is the perfect time to get educated: February is Teen Dating Violence (DV) Awareness Month.
The theme for Teen DV Month 2016 is “Love = Setting Boundaries,” and specific resources around that theme are available on the loveisrespect website, including a Love Is Respect guide and information about February webinars and Twitter chats.
The importance of this issue is why dozens of NEA members participated in a workshop, led by Sarah Colomé of Break the Cycle, at the NEA Joint Conference on Concerns of Women and Minorities last year.
“You have this unique and powerful connection to students that not a lot of other adults do,” Colomé says.
“An educator can be the guide to recognition of self-worth, and recognition of the resources that are available.” Standing in the doorway to her Wilde Lake High School classroom, Erika Chavarria observes the interactions among teenagers in the halls. “Generally what I’m seeing are relationships that are pretty unhealthy with few instances of equal partnership and respect.” When lovebirds march lockstep, arm in arm, is the closeness a choice?