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Lisa Groth was looking for ways to help students build healthy relationships when she attending a training course by Jana’s Campaign.

“Kids need to know that it’s OK to talk about relationships and talk about what to look for,” said Groth, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Boone Central High School in Albion.

Founded in Kansas several years ago, Jana’s Campaign is a national education and violence prevention organization with the single mission of reducing gender and relationship violence. It was recently recognized by the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Teachers of Nebraska with its 2018 Partnership Award for its continued involvement with Nebraska schools.

The organization has held numerous training seminars throughout the Midwest, including in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas, for area teachers, counselors and social workers. Jana’s Campaign delivers educational programs that prevent domestic and dating violence, sexual violence and stalking, using its Safe Dates Curriculum.

Jennifer Farrington, program support and assessment coordinator for Jana’s Campaign, said cases of violent relationships are most prevalent among high school students.

Close to 8.1 percent of Nebraska high school students in 2015 reported having been physically hurt by someone they were dating or had gone out with, according to statistics from a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services report published in 2016. It also states one in 15 Nebraska high school students reported to being in a physical fight at least once during the past 12 months.

“Prevention is what we do and the Safe Dates Curriculum is one way to present it,” Farrington said.

With the growth of social media, Groth said she sees more verbal than physical violence among students at her school, noting students oftentimes slander one another online.

“I want them to know that there are adults that are genuinely concerned about them,” she said.

Groth said she picked up many skills from the training she attended in February, including how to teach students how to identify warning signs of unhealthy relationships, noting not many students understand that all relationships aren't good for them.

Groth said when students get involved with someone violent, they assume that person's actions are normal.

“I really hope to see students build healthier relationships … and being able to recognize the signs … and then help other people,” she said.

Groth has been using the Safe Dates Curriculum provided by the organization to supplement her classrooms since the training and plans to amplify it in the fall.

Kaiti Dinges, education and prevention specialist at Jana’s Campaign, said the curriculum consists of 10 sessions, which include learning the warning signs, how to be an active bystander, knowing where to seek help and how to control anger.

“It’s important for everyday life,” Dinges said. “It is soft skills that they are learning … When we start young, we will be able to make a cultural change.”

Dinges said there’s a tremendous increase of awareness about the curriculum in the community due to word of mouth. As a result, Jana’s Campaign will be hosting a training session on Oct. 24 in Columbus at Educational Service Unit 7, 2657 44th Ave. Those who are interested in attending the local session are asked to call the organization at 785-656-0324​​.

Groth said she plans to attend the upcoming session to keep herself updated with the curriculum and to share her experience implementing what she learned in the classrooms.

“They do believe in the curriculum and want their colleagues to know as well,” Dinges added.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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