Start Strong TDV

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The following information from the national Start Strong TDV prevention program describes the core elements of a comprehensive TDV prevention policy and provides resources to support the implementation of those elements. Though designed with a focus on the legal and educational parameters of the school setting, these components can be adapted for other youth serving organizations.

School-wide prevention education for students including the adoption of an evidence-informed curriculum on healthy relationships and teen dating violence prevention.
Rationale: Prevention and early intervention with youth can have lasting effects on their future relationships. Teaching the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships as well as the skills to navigate and promote healthy relationships helps youth develop a positive framework for future relationships. Providing age-appropriate, universal prevention strategies, creating a baseline understanding of the specific behaviors and characteristics of adolescent dating abuse, and teaching the skills necessary for healthy and respectful behaviors are the essential elements of effective violence prevention programs.

Training and ongoing professional development programs for school staff on topics of healthy relationships and dating violence.
Rationale: Teachers, staff, and other school personnel respond to inappropriate behavior throughout the day, but may not recognize some abusive behavior as adolescent dating abuse or may not recognize the impact that those behaviors have on the target or offender without specialized training in this area. Through professional development, school staff gains clear policy guidance on how to recognize and intervene when a student or group of students displays early warning signs of adolescent dating abuse such as pressuring, controlling or threatening behavior, including technological abuse.

  • Dating Matters (FREE)
  • Hazelden: Dating Violence 101
  • Online training through the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center (contact Diana Ruschhaupt)
  • Professional Growth Points for teachers are available upon request.

Parent/caregiver notification and engagement in supporting a positive school environment.
Rationale: Research indicates that parents want to prepare their youth, but feel unprepared themselves, for how to conduct this conversation. Equally important, the research indicates that workshops addressing parents’ more immediate concerns related to their preteen children are more successful in engaging parents to talk about healthy relationships.

Strong partnerships with students, parents, staff, and community agencies.
Rationale: No tactic is more important to efforts to stop teen dating violence and abuse than alerting teen influencers—parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, older teens, young adults, and others—to the power they hold, and arming them with effective messages and prevention tools. Tweens and young teens look to certain adults and older peers for guidance and to serve as examples as they establish behavior patterns. But often, those influencers do not know the critical role they play in young people’s lives, and the power they have to promote healthy relationships and steer teens away from unhealthy ones. Local organizations specializing in dating violence or sexual assault prevention can serve as invaluable resources to help identify age-appropriate and culturally-sensitive prevention curricula and programming.

Policy response that identifies and addresses early warning signs.
Rationale: Many districts already look for early warning signs of violence to self and others—certain behavioral and emotional signs that, when viewed in context, can signal a troubled youth who needs help. But early warning signs are just that—indicators that a student may need help. Early warning signs can trigger responsible efforts to get help for the youth before problems escalate. Teachers, administrators and other school support staff are on the front line when it comes to observing troublesome behavior and are encouraged to make referrals to the prevention coordinator and/or appropriate professionals, such as a school psychologist, school nurse, school counselor, or outside professionals such as social workers, counselors, and teen dating violence specialists.

Sample policies:

Innovative intervention strategies to respond to teen dating abuse.
Rationale: A positive school climate and culture require the active promotion and modeling of individual healthy behavior and early intervention in unhealthy behavior by the entire school community of teachers, staff members, parents, and students. District policies and school practices that recognize the full continuum of prevention, early intervention, corrective guidance, and a protocol for active intervention when violence or harassment occurs are required to maintain a school environment that is free of violence, including adolescent dating abuse in all its forms.

Beside teaching evidence based curricula to teach core expectations, acknowledging and rewarding appropriate behavior and establishing a continuum of consequences for problem behavior are essential and basic principles of existing school-wide interventions. The appendix on page 41 of the Start Strong Model School Policy offers guiding documents for creating stay-away agreements and a chart of recommended disciplinary action.

Sample Disciplinary Plans

Monitoring plans to assess and report data related to the policy.
Rationale: In order to make real and lasting progress, practices and programs must become institutionalized, first through changes in policies and then by changes in system practices. “New” practices required through policy change reinforce a change in norms and behavior, which in turn leads to ongoing support for the policy and the practice. While policy adoption is an essential element of systems change, it is not by itself, enough to realize institutionalization of new programs and practices to prevent teen dating violence. To accomplish change in the systems we want to impact, policy change must be nestled in a strategy that includes implementation support, monitoring of adherence to the policy, and evaluation that seeks to improve practices over time.

  • See previously listed model policies.

Identification of a Prevention Coordinator.
Rationale: Without the identification of an on-site school staff member, the policy implementation and monitoring may not occur. The Prevention Coordinator would coordinate the dissemination of prevention methods, intervention techniques, and curricula addressing teen dating violence.

The suggested elements of the attached school policy include:

Adopt school-wide positive environmental supports and linking it with teen dating violence prevention efforts.

Rationale: School interventions that focus on creating a positive school environment, measuring school climate and using this data to promote safer, more supportive and engaging schools, show increases in academic achievement, reduced dropout rates, and an increase in teacher retention rates. In addition, a significant decrease in the rates of violence (social and physical), including teen dating violence, were shown.

Engage youth in supporting the policy and creating youth leadership opportunities.


Rationale: Youth are well-positioned to inform and lead efforts to prevent teen dating violence and abuse, and creating opportunities for them to do so offers myriad and lasting benefits. The experience of doing so, of shaping anti-violence and pro-healthy-relationship initiatives, can turn youth into effective activists who have an enduring commitment to this work and who can become credible messengers for younger teens in time.

Successful prevention programs rely on multiple exposures to the topic. To the extent possible, schools shall use multiple prevention strategies such as classroom lessons, youth-led projects, and parent education. Prevention curricula can be embedded into one core subject or spread across subject areas and grade levels. By using a variety of teaching methods, teachers can support change and engage students in acquiring skills to communicate, cooperate and resolve conflicts without using violence, and impart knowledge about how to prevent future incidents.

Start Strong Austin

Start Strong Boston

  • Sound Relationships Nutritional Label
  • “True View” Video Scoring Tool
  • Breaking Up is Hard To Do: Ten Tips for Supporting Your Teen
  • Healthy Relationships Quiz
  • U R Breaking Up?!
  • What Apps Will You Choose?

Start Strong Idaho

  • Building Healthy Teen Relationships—Digital Technology and Teen Relationships Curriculum (available upon request kbremer@iuhealth.org)

Start Strong Bronx

  • Broken Harmonies DVD and Discussion Guide — More information will be available soon on the Start Strong Bronx website

Reviving Ophelia (Lifetime Movie)

  • Parent Discussion Guide
  • Teen Discussion Guide
  • Teen Theatre

That’s Not Cool campaign

  • Register for That’s Not Cool’s tools page at www.thatsnotcool.com/tools for access to free resources and campaign materials.

Lessons from Literature

Provide peer support groups.
Rationale: Youth know best the stresses and pressures their peers are experiencing, how youth are using new technologies, what role models are being heard, what messaging is resonating most clearly, and more. As such, they are well-positioned to identify the strategies and tactics that can help their peers develop healthy—and reject unhealthy—relationships and learn to be positive bystanders.

Provide positive after-school programs and environments to encourage healthy relationships.
Rationale: Any effective prevention program must meet youth where they are: school, social marketing activities, youth led community-based approach, teen theater and other after-school activities are a focal point for youth. Ensuring that prevention campaigns include school-based components that engage educators, administrators, coaches, parents, older youth, mentors, after-school program staff and others, and also engage the broader community so the messages offered at school are reinforced at community centers, youth clubs, movie theaters, sporting events, and other places where young people congregate and spend their time, is an important facet of a comprehensive approach.