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LAUSD votes to start dating-violence program

October 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Unified School District is stepping up its efforts to protect teens against dating violence. The proposal was already in the works and comes nearly two weeks after a deadly stabbing at a South Gate high school.

It was a unanimous vote at the LAUSD board meeting Tuesday on a resolution aimed at preventing teen dating violence and creating prevention strategies in schools.

"Children cannot learn and they cannot achieve and they cannot graduate if they are not first safe," said Steve Zimmer, District 4 school board member and co-sponsor of Tuesday's resolution.

A stabbing at South East High School last month left 17-year-old Cindi Santana dead after her ex-boyfriend, Abraham Lopez, allegedly stabbed her on campus. Another student and a dean were also stabbed trying to intervene.

"That could have been me," said Jessica Contreras, a victim of dating violence. "That could have been the other girl who got beat up who I saw at school."

Those pushing for the resolution say it was in the works a decade before what happened at South East High.

"There's a kind of irony to the fact that this tragedy happened just as we were about to get to this place. But we are here now, and it is a wakeup call, and it is a call to action," said Patti Giggans, executive director, Peace Over Violence.

The program would designate a coordinator on every campus, someone students can go to who is trained to handle such situations.

The program focuses on training staff, parents and students to recognize warning signs and promote healthy relationships.

"To students out there who today feel afraid, uncomfortable, insecure, know that something is just not right, please say something. Don't be silent," said Zimmer.

The program will cost an estimated $2 million per year. Board members are working on how to fund it, starting now.


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