Expect Respect was a three-year federally funded project to prevent dating violence, specifically designed for elementary school students and their schools. SafePlace, formerly known as the Austin Center for Battered Women, implemented this program for 5th-graders at several local elementary schools. The goal of the project was for children to value equality, respect, and safety, and to reject violence and coercive behaviors in their current and future relationships. The program used the BullyProof curriculum developed by Nan Stein of the Wellesley Center for Research on Women.

Working with collaborators from the UT School of Nursing, Austin Community College, and UT College of Education, CSWR assisted in conducting both a process and an outcome evaluation of the program’s three main components: A 12-session curriculum for the 5th-grade students, infusion of project activities and values into school/campus practices and procedures, and training for teachers and other school staff.

At the end of the first year of curriculum implementation, results indicated that students at schools who received BullyProof were more accurate in identifying examples of sexual harassment than students who did not receive the curriculum. In addition, the students at the curriculum schools reported an increase in seeing bullying behaviors in various parts of the school, such as the cafeteria, school grounds, bathroom, and hallway. It is believed that the curriculum increased awareness and thus identification of bullying behaviors on campus.

As in the first year, second year results indicated that students at the intervention schools were significantly more likely to report bullying more often and in more places on campus at the end of the year than the comparison group. Also, students who received the curriculum increased their knowledge of sexual harassment as compared to the control group.

By the end of the second year, the students at the intervention schools were less likely to report that they would “hit, kick, or shove a bully” if they saw another student being beaten. They also indicated they believed adults at school were less likely to send the bully to detention, as compared to the control group. When asked about hearing students call another student mean names, the intervention students were more likely to indicate they and the school staff would “tell the bully to stop” compared to the control group. The students who received the curriculum were more likely than the comparison group to indicate they believed adults would “tell boys to stop” harassing a girl on the bus and that the boys’ parents would be called in this situation.

In addition, the intervention school students’ attitudes regarding dating and sexual harassment changed significantly in the desired direction as compared to the control group. For example, the intervention group was more likely to indicate that girls are not the only ones to get sexually harassed, and they indicated that it is not okay for a boy to hit his girlfriend if she calls him mean names.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
SafePlace, Inc., Austin, TX