A new Rhode Island law called the Lindsay Ann Burke Act, named for a woman killed in an abusive relationship, requires public middle and high schools to teach students about dating violence in their health classes, reports the Associated Press. The woman’s parents say schools should be obligated to teach teens the warning signs of abusive relationships and broach the subject head-on so victims feel empowered to get help and leave violent partners. One other state, Texas, mandates awareness education on dating violence for students and parents, while several other states encourage it. The Rhode Island measure goes further by requiring the topic be incorporated annually into the curriculum for students in seventh through 12th grade.
Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who shepherded the proposal through the legislature last year, said domestic violence is a disturbingly common crime, yet education about it is scarce and haphazard. “You teach sex ed, you teach `don’t do drugs,’ you teach `don’t drink,’ you should also be teaching `don’t be a victim of domestic violence,'” said Lynch, whose office receives about 5,000 cases a year. The idea of such a law is gaining traction around the country, with the National Association of Attorneys General unanimously adopting a resolution encouraging the education in their states. Nebraska’s top prosecutor said he intends to submit legislation modeled after Rhode Island’s law, and apparel maker Liz Claiborne Inc. has helped promote it around the country.