Police program for middle school boys aims stop domestic violence

PORTLAND, Ore. - Can teaching middle school boys a lesson help fight domestic violence?

The Portland Police Bureau hopes so.

The Bureau has started sending police staff into a couple middle schools through a pilot program called BoyStrength.

The staffers spend a couple hours a week teaching sixth-grade boys to choose compassion over violence.

PPB Capt. Derek Rodrigues said the program has a focus on learning to treat women well.

"I just see a lot of men that don't handle themselves with self-respect. They feel that anger is the only way that they can get across their feelings," Rodrigues said.

The hour-long lessons, two days a week, focus on open communication and calming techniques like deep breathing.

"It's to help boys become more aware. To examine masculinity and to build strong leaders and allies," BoyStrength director Carolyne Haycraft said.

What the Kids Say

Twelve-year-old Abdi Abdalle said he's enjoying the class at Vestal School in Northeast Portland.

"Sometimes I will get really mad at a person and I'll say something back. But this class taught me, like, just calming down by yourself or talking to a friend can help me even more," Abdalle said.

His classmate Harvey Bradford agreed.

"It's a good class, and I think other schools should try it out," Bradford said.

Looking for Help

The program is funded through grant money set aside to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children, but that money will only take the program through June.

Program coordinators are hoping for more grant money and perhaps some help from Portland police to fund the program next year.

They're also looking for men to volunteer their time to mentor these boys.

You can sign up to volunteer here.