Domestic Violence Classroom Activities

Refer children exposed to family violence to the school counselor.
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Domestic abuse is a sensitive subject. There may be students in your class witnessing or experiencing hitting, pushing, slapping, kicking or other frightening behaviors at home. A survey conducted by the National Census of Domestic Violence Services in Sept. 17, 2013 found that 16,917 adults and 19,431 children needed emergency shelter on or about that day, which may be indicative of the level of family violence in America on a typical day. Teachers can intervene in the cycle of domestic abuse. Present classroom activities to teach children about the problem of domestic abuse and available support.

1 Take a Pledge of Nonviolence

Participate in the Hands & Words Are Not for Hurting Project, an international effort to prevent domestic abuse. Provide children with a definition of domestic abuse. Inform them that a purple hand with a red heart in the center is a symbol used by people around the world to halt violence. Provide purple construction paper, instruct children to trace their hands on purple paper and then cut out the hands they drew. Instruct the children to print a pledge on their cutout promising not to hurt others with their words or hands. Instruct children to raise their right hand and recite the pledge. Discuss techniques for honoring their pledge, such as counting to 10, when they're angry.

2 Stage Antiviolence Events

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence encourages schools and communities to host antiviolence events each October to raise public awareness of domestic abuse. To maximize impact, make it a school-wide initiative. Organize assemblies that include a panel of experts -- social workers, police officers and attorneys -- to explain their perspectives on the causes of and solutions to domestic violence. Or invite a guest speaker to share a personal story of domestic violence to sensitize students to the issue. Create bulletin boards around the school and in classrooms listing facts and figures about domestic abuse.

3 Partner With a Shelter

Invite staff from a local domestic abuse shelter to visit your class to describe services offered at the shelter and in the community to protect family members, and even their pets, from an abuser in the home. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a growing number of shelters offer animal foster care, because abusers sometimes injure family pets to punish and control their spouse or children. Donate the proceeds of a school fundraiser, such as a carwash or a dance, to the domestic abuse shelter to help buy clothing, games, books or supplies for children staying at the shelter.

4 Use a Thematic Approach

The study of domestic abuse can be infused into your existing curriculum as an alternative to developing an entirely new lesson. For example, a math or statistics assignment could require students to graph and compare the number of domestic assault arrests in your state with neighboring states. Or you could instruct students in your English class to write a research paper on an aspect of domestic violence, such as the emotional effects, how to obtain a restraining order or treatment programs. This could be part of a lesson on finding credible sources and properly citing references. When discussing domestic violence, stress that it’s against the law and help is available for children and families.

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.