WADSWORTH — Five students showed up at a talk Wednesday to learn how to recognize signs of emotional, physical and sexual abuse in teen dating.
There might have been more in the audience but for a communications mix-up at Wadsworth Schools.
“I called and the woman on the line wouldn’t let me through to a health teacher,” said Heather Krestik, of the Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties. “She said, ‘Teens don’t date until they’re 18,’ and just wouldn’t let me through.”
Krestik, 23, reached out to Wadsworth Public Library, which hosted her Wednesday.
Paula Canterbury, Wadsworth Schools curriculum and instruction director, said Friday that she couldn’t believe that a school employee would turn away Krestik.
“That’s not at all the position of the Wadsworth City Schools,” Canterbury said. “Our first responsibility as educators is to give students as much information as possible.”
Canterbury said the district has had representatives of the Battered Women’s Shelter in to speak to students and plans to continue to do so.
She added that the district’s health teachers and counselors all have training in the subject of teen dating violence, so the students are receiving the information.
Canterbury said Friday afternoon that she was going to investigate to find out who had blocked Krestik’s call.
“I apologize for whoever said that,” she said.
Canterbury said she was shocked by the comment about high school students not dating.
“Honestly, I don’t want kids dating,” she said. “But it happens. We all know it happens.”
Krestik, who has given presentations to schools in Medina and Summit counties, agreed.
“I’ve been to middle schools where I’ve asked how many kids know someone who’s dating somebody without their parents knowing, and everyone raises their hands,” she said. “Just because adults don’t think it’s happening doesn’t mean it’s not.”
Her presentations are part of the Tina Project, which honors Tina Croucher, an 18-year-old Middletown woman who was shot and killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend in December 1992.
The project was formed in response to Ohio House Bill 19, also called the Tina Croucher Act, which was enacted in 2009 and requires public schools to include dating violence prevention in their curriculums.
Schools are not required to bring in Tina Project speakers, but someone on staff must have training in the subject.
Krestik said about a third of teenagers have been the victim of dating abuse. Boys and girls of all sexual orientations are victims, she said.
She said parents might not ever hear their children are dating, let alone that their children are victims of abuse.
“The majority of teens have trouble talking to their parents about that kind of stuff,” Krestik said. “They think, ‘That’s weird. I’m going to talk to my friends about that.’ “
If teens won’t talk to their parents about dating, Krestik said it’s even less likely they’ll talk about being abused. She said only a third talk to anybody at all about abuse.
Krestik said she understands the concerns of students, and encourages them to talk to a teacher, coach or guidance counselor if they’re being abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
“Unless someone reports it, we don’t know about it,” she said. “And we can’t help if we don’t know about it.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.