Recognizing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence Toolkit

2.8 How to Help our Students

student in counseling session

We see our students daily and recognize when something has changed in their lives. We notice when they are acting differently, when they are in new relationships, and when their mood and affect have changed. In addition to the warning signs and examples listed in Section 1.2 of this toolkit, there are other warning signs that we may see at school.

As adults, we are responsible for ensuring young people are safe from harm. If we suspect that a student is being abused by their partner or is abusing their partner, it is our responsibility to do something about it. By asking questions and showing concern, we may be able to stop things from getting worse. Some students believe that staff are aware that abusive behavior is happening and think that when staff don’t ask questions or show concern, it is due to them not caring. Know and follow your district’s dating violence policy and procedures and quickly respond to any kind of violence, including dating violence, bullying or sexual harassment. Intervene if you witness any act of dating violence. Intervention may include calling 911, getting a school resource officer, or directly stepping in if it is safe to do so.

If we suspect that a student is being abused by their partner or is abusing their partner, it is our responsibility to do something about it.

By maintaining good relationships with our students, a friend of the victim or perpetrator may be the one who tells us what is going on. Avoid promising confidentiality as it breaks their trust when we can’t keep our promise. A way to maintain trust is to say “I can’t promise confidentiality because I don’t know what you are going to tell me. If you tell me that you are hurting yourself, someone else, or that you are being hurt, then I may have to tell someone because I care about you. I can promise you this: I will tell you if we need to tell someone else.”

Nothing quite prepares us to hear that a student we care about is being hurt. We may think they just need to break up with their partner, the violence will stop, and our student will be safe. The most dangerous time for a victim of dating violence is when the victim attempts to leave or leaves their abuser. The abuser may try to escalate their control and power to try to get the victim to stay in the relationship. Research has shown that the risk of homicide escalates when the victim of abuse decides to leave the relationship. The danger can exist long after a breakup takes place. Those close to the victim, including staff, can also be at risk of harm.

  • Resources

  • Love is Respect Safety Planning Resources
    • Love is Respect has safety planning resources, including planning for safety at school, online, creating a safety plan, and creating support systems at school.
  • Break the Cycle
    • Break the Cycle has a resource manual for schools, including dynamics of teen dating violence, helping your students, teen legal rights, how School Resource Officers can help, safety planning, and a safety planning worksheet.
  • A Guide to Addressing Dating Violence in Texas Schools (TxSSC)
    • The Texas School Safety Center created “A Guide to Addressing Dating Violence in Texas Schools” in 2007. This resource provides helpful content related to safety planning for schools and enforcement of protective orders.
  • Resources for Educators (Texas Young Lawyers Association)
    • The Texas Young Lawyers Association created programs and resources for educators across all grade levels, including The Educator’s Toolkit. Some resources meet Texas Essential Knowledge Skills (TEKS) standards.