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Safe Connections expands violence prevention program to elementary students

Rici Hoffarth
St. Louis Public Radio
Safe Connections is expanding its violence prevention program to third through fifth graders. The program will focus on conflict resolution, bullying, consent and boundaries, as well as healthy relationships.

Safe Connections is expanding its violence prevention program to reach younger kids.

The St. Louis-based organization’s program, Project Hart, will now include children in third through fifth grade.

Destiny Green, the prevention and community education manager at Safe Connections, said it’s important to start conversation about consent and boundaries early.

“We have to give youth the tools to understand what consent is and what boundaries are,” Green said. “You have a right to have boundaries, especially when it comes to your space, your bubble, your body.”

The organization opted to broaden its program when more schools began to reach out for help two years ago. Green said there had been reports of upper elementary-age students touching others inappropriately without consent as well as making sexual remarks.

“There had been definitely this uptick in requests with sexual assaults happening in classrooms, a lot of bullying, a lot of coercive behavior happening in the hallways and things of that nature,” Green said. “So, we immediately began to respond to community needs and demands for our youth.”

The core curriculum is broken down into three tiers including conflict resolution with an emphasis on bullying, consent and boundaries, and healthy friendships. The students will learn about what healthy communication looks like, as well as spotting bullying and what to do when it happens.

“They’ll be able to identify ways that they are able to create a school environment where folks are not being bullied,” Green said.

The Project Hart program serves school districts throughout the St. Louis region. Through its program, it's held workshops for roughly 20,000 youth and youth-serving professionals. That number has dropped by a third during the pandemic.

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.