Teen dating violence is a problem for everyone to deal with: If we can educate teens about dating violence, we can prevent violent relationships from forming for both teens and adults!
Did you know that the experience Project REAL offers was actually inspired by a law that embodied a few Nevadan teens’ request for schools to teach them about relationship violence? That request – along with our current push for ‘Wear Orange Day’ on February 10th in schools throughout Nevada – were student-driven initiatives, and we’d like to take a moment to explain how young adults in our state have directly contributed to a safer Nevada.
In 2017, the Nevada Legislature passed SB108. That bill (now a law) required the Nevada Department of Education to study how it could make learning about laws a graduation requirement for Nevada’s high school seniors. The bill was created by the Nevada Youth Legislature: a two-year program that gives high school students an opportunity to learn about representative government and take an active role in the legislative process. This includes presenting one bill per term to the Nevada Legislature on an issue important to Nevada youth. Interested students may submit an application to represent the senatorial district in which they live or attend high school. Each of Nevada's 21 state senators appoints a youth legislator to represent his or her senatorial district.
SB108 began as the brainchild of one member of the 2017 Nevada Youth Legislature group in particular. She was determined to find a way to embed education about domestic violence and sexual violence into existing classes in Nevada. Our state has had a history of residents disagreeing on what should be included in health classes, with sex education being a particularly challenging topic to find consensus on. The student responsible – Olivia Yamamoto – had the idea of teaching students about consent, sex crimes, and domestic violence within the context of law rather than health: an approach that she correctly posited could achieve consensus among state legislators and the communities they serve. This led to the idea of requiring certain legal information in required social studies and civics classes.
The Nevada Youth Legislature is a collaborative process, so while Ms. Yamamoto’s idea won out among the many suggestions put forward that year, each student taking part in the group had contributions to make. Collectively, they accurately recognized that the bill would garner more support if it wasn’t focused exclusively on relationship and sex violence laws, but many common laws young adults’ lives are likely to be shaped by.
Our publication ‘Independence & You’ was already in development when SB108 was put forward, and remained in development when the bill passed. Ms. Yamamoto’s original vision stayed with our team members who were developing that publication though. As we determined the best way to get the guides into the hands of Nevada’s students, her idea of focusing on preventing sexual and relationship violence through law-related education stuck with us. Eventually, we tied distribution of the guides with the relationship violence experience we provide today – at no cost to the students, schools, and community groups we serve.
If it’s not already clear, our experience that is serving thousands of students each year was shaped directly by students – students that were asking for the exact kind of learning opportunity we now offer.
Nevada Teens’ Wear Orange Day – February 10, 2023
While we cannot say for certain what the future holds, we can confidently state that our first attempt to promote a Wear Orange Day to bring attention to Teen Dating Violence Prevention work is primarily youth-powered.
In early January 2023, Project REAL reached out to the Nevada Association of Student Councils with a request to connect with their members. Following some conversations, we were allowed to pass a message on to those students: we want each of them to promote a Wear Orange Day at their school on February 10, 2023 as part of our efforts to get relationship violence prevention activities into as many schools in our state as possible.
This is a preventable problem, and Nevada’s teenagers have the power to help address it!
To be clear, this is out-of-step with national efforts. National Wear Orange Day falls on February 12, 2023…a Sunday. To state the obvious, students won’t be in school that day. At Project REAL we believe if this is an issue impacting teens and young adults, than our state’s youth should be given the opportunity to take part in the solution!
If a school you’re familiar with takes part in a Wear Orange Day on February 10, 2023 we hope you realize all Project REAL did was pitch the idea. The participation taking place at the schools will be the direct result of students organizing and promoting the idea.
It All Comes Together
In 2017 the students of the Nevada Youth Legislature asked adults to help prevent crime (and to some degree, relationship and sexual violence in particular) through education. By wearing orange as part of Wear Orange Days at their schools in February 2023, Nevada’s students will again be asking adults to prevent relationship violence through education. This is a youth-powered movement, and we’re overjoyed and honored to be a part of it.
To the students of Nevada who take part, thank you!