Dr. Tonisha Jones conducts research with the Kidz Have Rights Program.
Kidz Have Rights Program
Teaching children to recognize the difference between welcome touch and potential sexual abuse is an extremely important but very difficult task. The KIDZ Have Rights (KHR) program seeks to educate children through presentations and other informational materials. In 2017, thousands of Kent County grade schoolers participated in the program, developed by the Grand Rapids Children’s Assessment Center (CAS) to fulfill the terms of Erin’s Law, which requires in-school sexual assault prevention education.
Evaluation of KHR’s effectiveness has been an important part of its continued use and success. Tonisha Jones, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor of criminal justice, conducted evaluations in 42 3rd grade classrooms and 10 4th grade classrooms for the 2016-2017 school year. The research consisted of pre- and post-test questions, given to students before and after the program, to measure whether there was a significant difference between their previous knowledge and what they’d learned.
The questions focused on measuring the ability of children to recognize different types of touches (nurturing, confusing, and selfish) from other youths and adults, and what to do about an interaction that included a confusing or selfish touch. There was a definite significant difference in students’ ability to differentiate these types of touches after their participation in the KHR program. The difference in test questions related to what to do in upsetting situations was less dramatic, largely because many students already knew the correct answers coming in. Still, there was still an overall increase in this area as well.
These data suggest that KHR does a good job of achieving its set goals. The evaluation process helps connect GVSU to important organizations like CAS, benefiting them by helping them make their offered services the best they can be. The involvement of GVSU students in the evaluation project benefits those students by helping them connect what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.