The U.S. House has yet to reauthorize the Violence against Women Act which passed the Senate last week. That act supports programs across the country including the Idaho Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence. But the coalition also uses a private grant to teach young teens about healthy relationships.
If you want to get the attention of middle schoolers just mention the pop culture sensation The Hunger Games. That’s why the Idaho Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence created a lesson plan on healthy relationships using the books and movie about teen survival in a dystopian future. It sent that lesson plan to teachers around the state. Coalition director Kelly Miller says this is a new approach to prevent teen dating violence.
“Couple years ago you know, I would have said we need to be doing the bulk of our work in high schools. And now I think the bulk of our work has to be done in middle schools.”
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says 75 percent of seventh graders date and more than a third report experiencing a violent relationship. So the foundation created the Start Strong program to develop relationship education for middle school age kids. It selected eleven organizations back in 2008 to receive a million dollars each over four years. The Idaho Coalition is the only statewide program. Debbie Lee who runs Start Strong, says the coalition stands out because it works in cities and rural communities. Lee says what the coalition has done with the money stands out as well.
“Idaho has leant a lot of wonderful lessons and creative strategies to other organizations within this group.”
Lee says the use of pop culture has been particularly impressive with things like that Hunger Games lesson plan. The Start Strong program ends in November. Kelly Miller with the Idaho Coalition says she’s working to get federal money to continue reaching out to middle schoolers on how to have healthy relationships.