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Education

Texas To Launch Program to Combat Dating Violence Among Athletes

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Ryan E. Poppe
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State education leaders and coaches have launched a pilot program to combat teen dating violence. The program is called ‘Protect Her.’

Its goal is to change the perception student athletes may have about what is appropriate dating behavior and when activities have crossed the line.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said on Friday that dating violence among teens is more common than people realized.

“What many people may not realize is about half of all reported sexual assaults are youngsters who are about 12 to 24, and about half of those are youngsters from about 12 to 17,” Williams pointed out.

Schools that volunteer to participate will begin implementing the mentoring program during the 2015-’16 school year.

Coaches and their students will watch a 20-minute training video involving different teen dating scenarios. D.W. Rutledge, the executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association, said that would just be the starting point. “It’s bringing the conversation to the table and it opens up a way for coaches to address this. It’s a tough conversation to start, so this helps us start the conversation,” Rutledge explained.

The Texas House Public Education Chair, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, said the program was important because young people often idolize athletes. “It’s been in the news a lot but it certainly is a role model situation. These athletes are influential role models with young people, and we want to be sure that we counter negative role models with positive modeling,” said Aycock.

Commissioner Williams said the $277 million dating violence program would be privately funded.  The owner of the Houston Rockets has pledged his financial support, and the group is now looking for other Texas professional teams to join their cause.