The University of Texas Medical Branch received a $3.07 million grant from the National Institution of Health in September to look at a program, called “Fourth R” that is meant to help teach ways to resolve conflicts, better ways to deal with peer pressure and prevent violence.

Dr. Jeffrey Temple — associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology — will lead the study.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Temple said. “We’ve been in schools now for about seven years, collecting information on risk and protective factors in dating violence and promoting healthy relationships. We found out in the study that ninth grade may be too late as far as stopping violence from ever happening.”

“Fourth R” was initially created in Canada and has been implemented throughout that country in addition to several schools in the United States and Nicaragua, Temple said.

“The important part of the grant is the program replaces existing health curriculums,” Temple said. “It’s not an add on program. It doesn’t cost schools much money at all. … It meets all the state and federal standards for a health class.”

It has already been proven successful at a high school level, according to studies.

“We got a $1 million grant last year to put ‘Fourth R’ into Galveston and Houston school districts,” Temple said. “That is implemented as we speak.”

This new grant is focused entirely on the middle school students.

“It’s an important time,” Temple said. “It’s typically just before they are starting to date and starting to participate in some risky behavior.”

“Fourth R” — which follows from the traditional reading, writing and arithmetic — focuses on a different way of teaching healthy relationship skills to students.

“Instead of teaching health traditionally, we teach it kind of like English and math, with practice and examples and some role playing,” Temple said.

It has been around for 10 years, but never implemented in middle school.

The study will feature several Houston-area schools where the program is implemented and then a control group of schools without the program, he said.

“I’m not 100 percent certain what schools will be involved,” Temple said. “With letters of support from schools around Houston, we went in for the grant. Now we are in the process of recruiting specific schools. We need 20-30 total.”

Contact reporter Matthew deGrood at 409-683-5230 or matthew.degrood@galvnews.com

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