FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

After the Parkland Shooting … Teach Youth About Dating Violence

I never thought this would be my life’s work. But writing and speaking about the connections between domestic and dating violence and mass shootings has become an absurd and sickeningly frequent part of my life. Here we go, again.

The massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just 20 minutes from where I live, is yet another horrific reminder of the United States’ failure to do right by our children. We legally compel them to go to school but can’t seem to keep them safe when they are there. Although addressing guns, mental health, and school security is vital, one thing I haven’t seen being promoted is the importance of teaching young people about dating violence and healthy relationships. Yet, as is so often the case, this school shooter had been abusive to his former girlfriend and to his mother, a huge red flag that more violence is to come.

Nikolas Cruz reportedly abused his girlfriend, and when she broke up with him and began dating someone else he physically attacked her new boyfriend and threatened on Instagram to kill him. Cruz sent a photo of his gun collections and wrote, “You fucking cunt stole my ex you cunt. “Iam going to fucking kill you… Iam going to watch ypu bleed [sic].” Police reports also show that Cruz abused his late mother, hitting her with part of a vacuum cleaner and calling her a “useless bitch.” Although he was never arrested or charged with any offense, police responded to 36 calls to his family’s home between 2010 and 2016, with child/elderly abuse and domestic disturbance among the most frequently occurring. His mother told police that he was often violent, that he threatened her, called her names, hit her, punched a hole in the wall, and routinely threw things around the room.

Cruz is far from the only mass shooter with abuse in his past. The link is clear. Before he killed 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Omar Mateen beat two of his wives. Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had been kicked out of the Air Force due to domestic violence, having served a year in a military prison for beating and choking his girlfriend, threatening her with a gun and fracturing her child’s skull. Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people in Las Vegas, was known to verbally abuse his girlfriend in public. The man who killed seven people near the campus of UC Santa Barbara in 2014 targeted a sorority and claimed he was waging a war on women. These are just a few examples.

School shootings often follow a breakup or rejection by a desired dating partner. At least 12 school shootings involved male perpetrators who specifically targeted girls who had broken up with them or rejected them. These include infamous shooters from the 1990s: Luke Woodham, Michael Carneal, Evan Ramsey, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, Andrew Wurst, Kip Kinkel, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and TJ Solomon, among others. In each case the boys had previously threatened or acted aggressively toward the girls, yet school officials either did not recognize the red flags or chose to ignore it.

Approximately one-quarter of all women in the U.S. have experienced physical violence by a partner, and 21 percent of high school girls report suffering physical or sexual violence from someone they were dating. Some 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse by a dating partner, and 35 percent of 10th grade students report physical or verbal abuse. The CDC has found that this is the most frequently occurring type of violence experienced by youth in the U.S.

Despite these examples and statistics, research has shown that most high school principals are not very well-informed about dating violence. A study inquiring about the 2016-16 year found that 57 percent of the responding principals had assisted a dating violence victim in the previous two years but 68 percent said they lacked formal training about how to do so. Less than a third said information about dating violence was easily available or accessible to students, and 62 percent said that teachers and staff had not been trained about it. Only 35 percent said that their school’s violence prevention policies specifically addressed dating violence.

In 2010, Florida enacted Florida Statute 1006.148, which requires that district school boards adopt and implement a dating violence and abuse policy and provide training to teachers, faculty, staff, and administrators as well as include the topic in comprehensive health education curricula for students in grades 7 through 12.

I do not know whether it was offered at MSD, but I know many schools in Florida are not doing so. I have spoken to many high school groups and “no” is the resounding response when I ask about whether they have received such education. Perhaps because the law includes dating violence education as part of health education, which is not a required course but rather an elective. Or maybe, as previously mentioned study found, principals rated dating violence as a minor issue.

While we discuss what to do so that no more kids are mowed down at their schools, please let us consider actually teaching youth about dating violence, healthy relationships, and how to handle rejection and breakups.

More articles by:

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

January 23, 2019
Paul Street
Time for the U.S. Yellow Vests
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail