3 Berkshire high schools to participate in Patriots anti-violence partnership


Three Berkshire County high schools have been chosen to participate in a training program for a new anti-violence partnership between the state Attorney General's Office and the New England Patriots.

Attorney General Maura Healey announced Monday that Pittsfield, Taconic and Drury high schools are among 98 high schools selected from across the commonwealth to participate, starting in January, in a program called "Game Change: The Patriots Anti-Violence Partnership."

"One in three young people has experienced physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse in a relationship. At the high school level, we have a unique opportunity to disrupt that cycle," Healey said in statement about the training program.

Historically in the Berkshires, schools haven't had the finances or materials to consistently offer education programs for staff and students. In the past, agencies like the Berkshire District Attorney's Office and the Elizabeth Freeman Center have offered assistance and programs to help.

Taconic High School Principal John Vosburgh said his school has previously welcomed people who were victims of domestic violence to speak to classes in the Health and Human Services Department. The school implements the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, and in recent years, student groups have done poster campaigns to raise awareness about dating violence.

"But it's been nothing near to the extent of what we hope [anti-violence education] could be," Vosburgh said.

Drury High School Principal Amy Meehan said the program is "absolutely something we wanted to do to bring to our staff and students" to promote safety within and around the school community.

Supported in part through a larger $1.5 million domestic violence and sexual assault prevention initiative developed by the Robert Kraft Family and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, the Game Change program itself will be funded with $500,000 from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and $150,000 from the Attorney General's Office.

The Game Change program was announced back in September, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft highlighted how high-profile cases involving players within the NFL have brought international attention to an important issue that "has been long overdue."

Two adult representatives from each school, or a total of 196 faculty, staff members, counselors and coaches, will participate in the three-day trainings offered across six state regions beginning next month.

The trainings will be conducted by Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), a national violence prevention agency run by the Center for Sport in Society at Northeastern University. MVP uses a sports-themed curriculum and employs collegiate athletes and former professional athletes as trainers.

The program also will include online support tools for schools and an evaluation component to determine the effectiveness of the program in changing attitudes and behaviors.

Next fall, the Attorney General's Office will select 30 high schools from the group of 98, for a total of five high schools in each of the six regions of the state, to do a more in-depth training with MVP and representatives from local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organizations. The organizations will be asked to help train school staff and parents and work with school administrators on policies and services for students and families dealing with violence.

Students from each of those schools will also be trained to become peer leaders who can teach younger students about healthy relationships and bystander intervention.

Info: mass.gov/ago.

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.


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