Dating violence and harassment (DV/H) can lead to serious injuries for its victims, poorer mental and physical health, more "high risk"/deviant behavior, and increased school avoidance. The goal of this project is to prevent DV/H by increasing knowledge about the efficacy of prevention programs through the most rigorous evaluation methods available.
The Police Executive Research Forum and Wellesley College will partner with the fourth largest school district in the nation, Miami-Dade, and its certified school police department. The proposed 27-month study will use an experimental, longitudinal design with random assignment of 50 middle schools/200 classrooms from the 6th and 7th grades to one of four conditions: (1) Both a building and classroom-level intervention; (2) A building-level intervention; (3) A classroom intervention; and (4) Neither (control group). Within each of these four cells, a random sample of 50 classrooms will be selected for study participation and complete all three waves of student quantitative surveys (200 classrooms x 30 students per classroom = 6,000 students).
The classroom intervention involves a six-session curriculum that emphasizes the consequences for perpetrators of DV/H, state laws, penalties and remedies for DV/H, the construction of gender roles, and healthy relationships. The school (building-level) intervention includes training for police and school personnel in identifying/responding to DV/H, introduction of school based restraining orders, mapping of "hot spots" of unsafe areas, and use of posters for awareness and reporting of DV/H to the police/school. The control group follows normal schedule and does not receive any of the class or building-level intervention elements.
Additionally, surveys, observational methods, key informant interviews and focus groups with key stakeholder groups will be used to assess the integrity/fidelity of the intervention delivery and random assignment process. The project will answer four questions on the effectiveness of DV/H prevention programs: (1) What are the effects of providing prevention programming compared to no prevention?; (2) Are classroom-based prevention programs that incorporate an additional school-level intervention more effective in changing knowledge, attitudes, and behavior than classroom interventions that do not or compared to no programming at all (i.e., the control group)?; (3) Do moderator variables impact the relationship between treatment and outcomes?; and (4) Do DV/H patterns (e.g., prevalence/frequency and severity) differ for female versus male students, and are the interventions more effective in reducing victimization and/or perpetration for female compared to male students?