North Salem 8th-Graders Learn Lessons About Dating

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North Salem eighth-graders play a game called Dating Bingo during the workshop. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – North Salem's eighth-graders were introduced recently to some of the criteria for maintaining healthy relationships with other people.

During the first session of an eight-week workshop on dating, representatives of the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center asked eighth-grade students such questions as, “What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship? What are the responsibilities and important signs of a good relationship? How do you want to be treated if you go on a date? How would you treat a person you were dating?”

“We’re going to talk about safety,” said Ashley Retta, a community educator. “You’re in the eighth grade now and this might be far in the future for you. Or it might be something you’re dealing with right now.”

Students were given a pre-test of nine questions about dating behavior and dating abuse. “This will help us get to know you and what you already know,” said Retta’s colleague, JoLynn Backes. When the workshop ends, she said, students will be given a post-test, “to see how well we did our job. Then, store what you learned in the back of your mind for when you do start dating.”

Middle/High School Assistant Principal George Bovino spoke briefly about the local case of Liz Butler, a North Salem student who was killed by a man she was dating. “It was an abusive relationship and it happened right here in our community to one of our students,” he said. “If I talk to graduates who went to school with Liz, they say they had a feeling it wasn’t a good relationship but didn’t quite know what to say.

“At that time I made a commitment to you and to our district that no one would graduate from North Salem without understanding the symptoms of an abusive relationship and the importance and beauty of a loving relationship.”

“It happens a lot more than you think,” added Backes. “One out of every four people will have an abusive relationship before they leave high school.”

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