By Lynne Bronstein
Observer Reporter 

Teen Dating Violence Interests School Board


March 20, 2013

Teen Dating Violence Interests School Board

A report on teen dating violence and a presentation on the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program at Culver City Middle School were the highlights of last week’s School Board meeting.

Both presentations featured Mariko Rooks, an eighth grader at CCMS, whose ambitious work seems to characterize the abilities of the GATE students.

Rooks’ teen dating violence report actually stems from a project she did with her Girl Scout troop. She has put in more than 50 hours of research on the subject and has written articles for newspapers and web sites, including AsianWeek.

Rooks distributed a paper with statistics to the School Board members and CCUSD administrators. One typical stat: 9.8 percent of high school students in the United States say they have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend. “That means approximately 30 million teens are affected by this nationwide,” Rooks wrote in her AsianWeek article.

Rooks’ aim in presenting her report to the CCUSD School Board was to ask that teen dating violence be included as “a critical component” of bullying as defined by the Anti-Bullying Task Force, and that counseling and preventive training for teen dating violence be part of the anti-bullying program.

She enumerated the various types of teen dating violence, among them cyber-bullying, verbal intimidation, and isolation.

A big problem is that many teens do not vocalize about the violence they are experiencing. And: “While girls are the primary victims, training and healing are critical for both genders.”

Rooks suggested that an anti-teen dating violence program be installed at the eighth grade level, as statistics show that incidents of teen dating violence happen during the years 12-18.

Her report impressed the Board. “I definitely think this should be added to our anti-bullying program,” said Patricia Siever. “[Your report] really brought knowledge to me.”

CCUSD Superintendent David LaRose said Rooks had done “a wonderful job” and invited her to visit the next meeting of the Anti-Bullying Task Force.

Karlo Silbiger requested there be a report back from the Task Force meeting to the Board.

Rooks appeared again as part of CCMS’s presentation on GATE, along with CCMS principal Jon Pearson, GATE coordinator Ruth Morris, and a number of other students from the program.

Morris explained that GATE constitutes 20 percent of the CCMS student body. Students are qualified for GATE if they score highly on CST tests and score 95 percent or higher in their classes.

“They are extremely high-level [academically], yet some of them have difficulty relating to their peers,” said Morris.

To that end, the GATE program allows students to participate in various clubs, mostly run by the students, with minimal teacher supervision. Students emerge as leaders through their own abilities, and fuel the running of these clubs with their own ideas and energy.

The Board heard from the leaders of GATE’s clubs: Recycling Group, Campus Beautification, Media Group, Events Planning, Peer Tutoring, Student Court, Lego Enthusiasts, and GATE, Inc.

The latter was explained by its leader, Lex Torrington: “GATE eats up a lot of money and we don’t want to be taking all of it. So we (GATE, Inc.) raise money for other GATE groups by selling our own ‘products,’” such as wallets created by student artists. GATE, Inc. hires its “employees” with interviews and applications—just like in the business world.

Isabel Musselman described the Student Court: “It’s a new way of bringing justice to students.” Cases are brought to the court by students and teachers and tried by the Court, which also features students as jurors.

Other speakers included Joanna Kim of Campus Beautification, who described how she created a Campus Beautification Day with parents pitching in to clean up the school campus; Matt Johannsen of Lego Enthusiasts, who talked about the tournaments held by his group; and Rooks once again, talking about her role as leader of CCMS Performances, which presents theatre events. She distributed flyers for the upcoming CCMS musical production “Once Upon This Island,” which will be presented May 4 and 5 at Robert Frost Auditorium.

Future plans for GATE programs include a publishing company and a book club.


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