‘We hope it changes the culture’: D-2 pilots new teen dating violence curriculum

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As students get ready to head back to class on Thursday, teachers in Harrison School District 2 are preparing to pilot a new program.

In partnership with TESSA, a group that provides resources for victims of domestic violence, D-2 will be teaching middle and high schoolers about teen dating violence.

“Students can’t be the best student they can be if we’re not dealing with their whole development,” said Christine O’Brien, the district’s public information officer.

Middle school boys will be learning from a program called “Coaching Boys into Men.” Boys basketball coaches will be giving the athletes short lessons each week during practice.

“Coaching Boys into Men was a really unique program. It’s research-based. They’ve been doing it in San Francisco for years and across the country,” O’Brien said. “We wanted to take it to middle school students. That’s really the time when kids are thinking about relationships. They’re trying that out. They’re seeing things modeled and we can break cycles of disrespect with boys and girls, but primarily young men, and they’re learning from their coaches on the field. It’s just a way to teach that curriculum when kids are moving. It’s not a classroom format, and that’s important.”

The hope is that the student athletes will take what they learn during practice and be models and examples for their friends and classmates.

At the high school level, TESSA will be providing health teachers support, training and new curriculum to talk about healthy relationships.

“The reality is is that we encounter a lot of youth that have experienced life where they don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like. They don’t know what that feels like, and so we are able to have the opportunity to speak on what that might feel like, what that might look like and provide them the tools to identify whether there’s red flags in their relationship, if there’s red flags in their friendships,” said Cynthia Negrete, TESSA’s youth and children’s Program Manager. “So we try to cater through all the different types of relationships that youth will encounter.”

O’Brien said in addition to the health teachers leading lessons, there would also be guest speakers and special performances to go along with the curriculum.

“We hope it changes the culture, that kids feel comfortable speaking up when they see relationships that aren’t right and aren’t healthy, and that they can encourage their friends to really, to see themselves as someone who should be respected and when they see some type of confrontation or conflict, that they can reach out for help in solving that,” O’Brien said.

She said health teachers will be trained in September and October and start the curriculum later this school year.

According to O’Brien, it was important that the school district partnered with TESSA to talk about these topics.

“While a teacher may have the relationship, they don’t have the expertise necessarily to deal with a student who’s coping with something and they need a professional,” O’Brien said. “So that’s where it’s really important to partner with a resource like TESSA in our community, and they come alongside us and provide that for our kids and for our staff training.”

TESSA said D-2 is the first school district to pilot the curriculum in the area, but the hope is that this program will expand to other districts in the future.