Teen Dating Violence

SEA: 316, “Heather’s Law” Implementation information September 2010

This legislation was named for Heather Norris, a young Indianapolis woman killed by her estranged high school boyfriend in 2007. The law requires the Department of Education to work with advocates to develop a toolkit of model teen dating violence (TDV) curricula and policies for grades 6-12. The DOE is instructed to make this toolkit available to schools by July of 2011.

It is important to note that Heather’s Law requires the DOE  to identify model teen dating violence curricula and policies, but it DOES NOT require schools to adopt those recommendations. Because local implementation of the elements of the toolkit is voluntary, ICADV collaborated with our partners at the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Domestic Violence Network to assemble an implementation strategy pack. The strategy pack provides statistics about the incidence of TDV, provides talking points for advocates, addresses barriers that schools face in implementing curricula and provides model letters of support to assist local domestic violence programs and rape crisis centers in advocating for the adoption of DOE’s recommendations. Here’s the link to the strategy pack:

SEA 316 Implementation Strategy Pack


Advocates from the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Network met with the Department of Education team on August 9th, 2010. The DOE had already begun to look at model school policies and we supplemented those with policies from our research. The DOE policy team plans to evaluate these models and compile recommendations for Indiana schools. They plan to have this work completed by January or February of 2011 so that schools can get them to the printers in time for inclusion in the 2011-2012 student handbooks.

Model policies that we discussed articulate consequences for the perpetrators of teen dating violence but go beyond that by seeking to change the school culture to reduce or eliminate social support for harassment and abuse. Policy models we discussed with the DOE team are comprehensive in offering a range of interventions that promote accountability for perpetrators while ensuring safety and maintaining a measure of empowerment for victims. They also include training recommendations for all staff and parents. In response to the growing incidence of tech-related abuse, we also provided the DOE policy team with legal precedent information arguing that schools have the jurisdiction to respond to abusive language and behavior that takes place off of school grounds (including cyberspace). There are many excellent policies both from organizations and states that have enacted TDV legislation; please email Colleen Yeakle if you would like copies of model policies.


Rather than simply endorsing existing evidence-based and evidence-informed curricula, the Department of Education plans to invite existing prevention programs to present information about their work. The DOE will convene a panel of experts who will evaluate and provide feedback to programs about the relative strengths and opportunities for improvement within their programs. The evaluation will be based on an assessment of the degree to which the program covers the nine standards of effective prevention strategy articulated in research literature (Nation, et al, 2003; the language was changed slightly to apply to the primary prevention of DV and SA by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, 2009). Here are the nine standards:

  1. Develop prevention strategies that promote protective factors.
  2. Develop strategies that strive to be comprehensive.
  3. Develop strategies that are concentrated, and can be sustained and expanded over time.
  4. Develop strategies that use varied teaching methods to address multiple learning processes.
  5. Develop prevention strategies based on logical, purposeful rationale.
  6. Develop strategies that are developmentally appropriate.
  7. Develop strategies in consideration of the diverse cultural beliefs, practices, and community norms of program participants.
  8. Develop strategies that include a systematic method to determine program effectiveness and promote continuous quality improvement.
  9. Develop strategies that have relevant supporting curriculum materials and adequate support for curriculum instructors.

The DOE team plans to place these standards in a matrix giving local programs examples to determine their level of success in adopting each standard. Local programs will be able to use the matrix for self-evaluation and improvement as well as to submit their work to the DOE for evaluation and endorsement.


Berkeley Media Studies Group. (2003). Distracted by drama: How California newspapers portray intimate partner violence. Issue, Volume13, January 2003.

Nation, M., Crusto, C., Wandersman, A., Kumpfer, K., Seybolt, D., Morrissey-Kane, E., & Davino, K. (2003). What works in prevention: Principles of effective prevention programs. American Psychologist, 58 (6/7), pps. 449-456.

Prevention Institute. (2007). Poised for prevention: Advancing promising approaches to primary prevention of intimate partner violence.

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. (2009). Guidelines for the primary prevention of sexual and intimate partner violence.