Hays High School students and staff are learning about healthy relationships this week.
Curt and Christie Brungardt of Jana’s Campaign and Sase Fleenor kicked off the week with a personal message.
Christie Brungardt’s daughter, Jana Mackey, a 2000 Hays High graduate, died July 3, 2008, in a domestic violence case.
“It’s always difficult for me to talk about,” Christie Brungardt said.
Monday’s presentation was especially difficult “because Jana went to school here.”
Curt Brungardt spoke to the male students and teachers in one gym, while Christie Brungardt and Fleenor spoke to the female students and teachers in another.
Christie Brungardt frequently speaks to high school students and has spoken to individual Hays High classes.
Curt Brungardt often speaks to university students, but the Hays High presentation was the first time they’ve given the presentation to separate genders. It was also Curt Brungardt’s first time talking to high school students.
The presentation “will be 100 percent different” than his others, Curt Brungardt said.
His talk focused on masculinity and what it means to be a man — a man of integrity.
Principal Marty Straub said the topic of healthy relationships is one he’s given a lot of thought.
“We care about them (students) inside our school and outside our school,” Straub said.
The Brungardts are a valuable resource to the students because of their personal tie to the issue, and their presentation is research-based, he said.
Posters listing statistics, warning signs and resources will be displayed in the school this week.
Students and staff receive a T-shirt on the week’s topic and are encouraged to wear them Friday.
A Power Team presentation Friday also will focus on healthy relationships.
With the stories of domestic violence among sports figures in the news recently, we realize “it doesn’t start at age 35. It’s increasing nationwide for ages 14 to 19, and those are our kids,” Straub said.
“Since 1994, traditional adult domestic violence has gone down 50 percent, but it’s been going up in middle and high schools,” Christie Brungardt said.
And the increase has been dramatic, she said.
Fleenor told the young women she married her high school sweetheart who was an abuser.
She identified some abusive behaviors — isolation, coercion, emotional abuse, jealousy and sexual assault.
Her abusive relationship started with isolation when he came between Fleenor and her best friend, saying the friend was bad for her.
“She may very well have been, but he was even worse,” she said.
After a few years of marriage, Fleenor divorced him and is in a healthy marriage now.
The stereotype is women as victims and men as violators, Christie Brungardt said.
“Men are victims, too. Girls are doing these things as well, and it’s just as wrong no matter who does it,” she said.
Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.