Regional groups involved with schools, youth programs and the justice system came together Wednesday in Durango to share their experiences and efforts to prevent violent and anti-social behavior.
The 6th Judicial District Rural Collaborative meeting held at the La Plata County Fairgrounds attracted about 40 residents and 10 speakers. The meeting, one of a series, is intended to spark a dialogue around topics of community interest. Last year’s meetings discussed homelesness, sexual assault and domestic violence. Back then, residents said they wanted to know more about what is being done around prevention education, said Maura Doherty Demko, director of Sexual Assault Services Organization in Durango, which hosted Wednesday’s discussion.
One example of prevention education involves sexting, Demko said. The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office became aware of middle school children who were sending inappropriate photos to each other. Rather than refer them to the justice system, the sheriff’s office enlisted SASO to educate students about why sexting is a concern, warning them it can carry serious consequences, she said.
Another example of prevention education is the Keys to High School Success Conference held once a year for eighth-grade girls. The program aims to prepare girls for the transition from middle school to high school by giving them a sense of belonging. This year, the conference will include boys, Demko said.
Several local groups are working toward similar goals when it comes to preventive measures, she said, but the duplicity is a good thing.
“If kids and adults are exposed to something four or more times, there’s actually potential for change in behavior,” Demko said.
Finding funding to support prevention programs is often difficult, she said, in part because it’s harder to measure success, she said.
Conferences like the one held Wednesday allow service groups to come together and share what they’re working on, which prevents them from becoming isolated.
“The goal, I think, is to share what we’re doing so we can learn from each other and figure out how we can continue to work together and get the word out about the good stuff that we’re doing,” she said.