School is where young people spend so much time during their formative years, often cultivating their first romantic relationships. So, it’s a logical place for students to learn about the qualities of a healthy relationship and the signs of relationship abuse.
But not every state requires that schools teach their students about healthy relationships and teen dating violence, which can have lifelong consequences. Experts say that such education is critical to combating and preventing abuse in youth relationships.
As of June 2022, 37 states and the District of Columbia, had at least one law addressing teen dating violence in secondary schools. But the requirements vary greatly from state to state, according to a National Institutes of Health report and research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia require prevention education, and nine states simply encourage the effort. Fewer than half of those with laws (14) required districts to develop a districtwide policy addressing teen dating violence, 10 dedicated funding for violence prevention programs and policies, and 12 outlined explicit consequences for not complying with the laws.
Some of those states require education for students only, while others also require education for school staff and parents, or some combination of the three groups. One state, New Hampshire, has a requirement that applies to school staff only, with training focused on signs to watch for that a student might be in a toxic relationship and when and how to intervene.
Thirteen states as of last June still had no mandate written into law that would require schools to address teen dating violence.
“This is an issue that is relevant to 100 percent of young people,” said Megan Shackleton, chief program officer for the One Love Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches youth about healthy relationships and relationship abuse. “So many young people are going to experience unhealthy behaviors, and they need this education.”
Below is a breakdown of state requirements for teen dating violence education: