Feds: Dating Violence Program in NYC Got Results

DOJ administered the program.

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    New York City middle school students who were warned against dating violence and harassment as part of a federal study were up to 50 percent less likely to commit dating violence than a control group of students, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.

    The study was conducted during the 2009-2010 school year among 2,500 sixth- and seventh-graders at 30 randomly selected New York City public schools.

    It found that "school-level interventions" such as increased staffing at "hot spots" that students identified as unsafe and the use of temporary school-based restraining orders were effective in reducing violence.

    "The success of school-level interventions is particularly important because they can be implemented with very few extra costs to schools," said John H. Laub, director of the Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice. "The scientific methods in this study were rigorous."

    A survey released this week by the American Association of University Women found that sexual harassment is widespread in both high schools and middle schools. The survey found that during the 2010-11 school year, 48 percent of students in grades 7-12 experienced some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, email and social media.

    The New York study is one of the few studies of dating violence or harassment particularly targeting U.S. middle school students.

    In the New York study, nearly half of the sample reported at least one experience of being in a dating relationship that lasted a week or longer. About one in five students said they had experienced physical or sexual dating violence.  

    Some students in the study received classroom lessons that included discussions of healthy relationships and that addressed legal penalties for dating violence and harassment.

    Others got interventions that included posters, teachers patrolling "hot spots" and school-based restraining orders.

    Still others got both the classroom lessons and the interventions.

    The study found that students who received the intervention measures were up to 50 percent more likely to say they would not commit dating violence than the control group of students.

    The students who received the interventions also were more likely to say they would intervene as a bystander if they were made aware of dating violence.

    The classroom lessons alone had no statistically measured effect, but students in focus groups said the lessons taught girls to speak up for themselves.  

    Students in one focus group said they used to giggle when they heard the term "sexual harassment" but after the lessons they treated the issue more seriously.