A measure that would require school districts to disseminate information about teen dating violence to students and parents passed the House Thursday and is now in the Senate. Main bill sponsor Richland County Representative Joan Brady says with only a few days left in the session she is not overly optimistic that it will pass the Senate by the end of this session. Brady says it is important for school administrators, teachers, and parents to recognize the warning signs if a teen is an abusive relationship as a victim or abuser in order to help stop the escalating cycle of domestic violence spreading throughout the state. Brady says her legislation is an integral part of creating a safe learning environment for school students.
“Many of them come from abusive households where domestic violence may be in fact the norm. The school setting may be the only setting where we can identify these warning signs and be sure that there is intervention before they escalate to more serious crimes. This is very pertinent to South Carolina, where we are between number one and number three (in the U.S.) for domestic violence homicides.”
Brady says the legislation is focused on students from sixth grade through high school.
Chester County Representative Greg Delleney angered gay rights advocates when he introduced an amendment to the bill limiting the scope of the bill to heterosexual relationships. Brady says as primary sponsor of the legislation her intent was not to exclude any children. Brady says she modeled the measure after the Lindsay Ann Burke Act that passed in Rhode Island that is named after a Rhode Island college student who was murdered by an abusive boyfriend she started dating in high school.
After doing more research and consulting with the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Brady says the target group the measure is aimed toward is younger couples in heterosexual relationships. “We don’t want to particularly eliminate anybody, but boy on girl abusive behavior that is the largest group and that’s where you’re seeing the problems.”
According to a 2007 National Institute of Justice youth risk behavior survey, in South Carolina eight percent of adolescents surveyed reported being physically violent to a romantic partner.
Brady says identifying the problem early is the key to stopping the cycle of violence before adulthood. “Statistics are showing that these behaviors are really starting at what we call the ‘tween years 11 to 14, so This will be policy for middle schools through high schools in South Carolina.”
Brady says she is hopeful that the bill will pass during the next session.