By Nicole Hennessy
Earlier in the year the Lakewood School Board passed a measure to protect students against dating violence.
Now, having received a $511,832 grant made available by the Justice Department, the district will move ahead with its new program, Ranger 360, which will focus on creating and nurturing a violence-free community.
With it’s first forum taking place tonight at 7 p.m. in Garfield Middle School’s cafetorium, the information presented will affect more than just Lakewood residents.
Though it’s part of the district’s plan to become a local leader in the effort to prevent sexual assaults, the forum will be pertinent to any student or parent.
Lakewood is one of only nine school districts in the nation chosen to participate in this program, and the only in Ohio, so the district is in the position to create a state and.or national model as a result of its efforts.
“Research suggests that successful interventions are tailored to fit the unique context of their community, which is why community involvement and insight is critical,” the district’s website says, encouraging community members to attend the forum.
A collaboration headed by the Lakewood City School District , Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center (DVCAC), Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (CRCC) and Lakewood Police Department, the program’s stated goal is to “design and implement a comprehensive school-based response to sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.”
“While dating, domestic and sexual violence affect individuals regardless of age, teens are especially vulnerable,” the district’s website continues. “1 in 3 adolescent girls is a victim of abuse from a dating partner. People age 12-19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault and people age 18-19 experience the highest rates of stalking. Add to that the 15.5 million U.S. children who live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the last year and you have a huge number of young people in this country whose lives are affected by violence.”
While there is much talk about bullying in schools, sexual assault often goes overlooked, as it is a more taboo subject, but with statistics like these, districts like Lakewood know that preventative measures must be taken.
Throughout the night issues relating to bullying (cyber bullying) will be addressed, as well.
Over the next two years, Ranger 360 will continue hosting events, seeking community support to improve education, policy development and training for local administrators and law enforcement.
The event is free of charge and part of the goal is to help plan ways to provide support for victims and help community members learn to cope with being in a violent situation.
Attendees are encouraged to arrive early. Garfield Middle School is located at 13114 Detroit Ave, Lakewood.