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Greenwood students having serious discussions about domestic violence in new classes

Students in the new classes designed paper T-shirts, each honoring a domestic violence victim, telling their real-life tragic and fatal story.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — The eighth graders at Greenwood Middle School are having some very serious discussions about domestic violence in their newly-formed Family and Consumer Science (FACS) classes. 

The 150 students designed paper T-shirts, each honoring a domestic violence victim, telling their real-life tragic and fatal story. It’s called The Clothesline Project, and it’s got kids in Greenwood looking for the red flags of an abusive relationship. 

"For my students, I think that they need to accomplish a safety plan learning how to get out of a bad relationship and learning what the red flags are in a bad relationship," said FACS teacher Maureen Hoffman-Wehmeier.

Many of Hoffman-Wehmeier's students shared an example of how domestic violence has affected their lives.

"A student went home and told his mother that he recognized the red flags in his sister's former relationship," said Hoffman-Wehmeier. 

Many Greenwood Middle School students told 13News they appreciate the outside-the-box thinking that went into learning through The Clothesline Project.

"We did a project about victims of domestic abuse," said GMS eighth-grader Lily Williams. "We had to make a T-shirt remember remembering them and how they died and who their abuser was. (We were) really just trying to spread awareness that this can happen to anyone and it's a sad thing."

RELATED: Indy groups go door-to-door to help survivors of domestic violence

Even though the domestic abuse stories written on the paper T-shirts in the hallway outside their class didn't specifically happen to the students at Greenwood Middle School, many told 13News it was very helpful knowing that those shirts represent real people who were experiencing real domestic violence.

"It was intense at first," said Williams. "When we first started talking about it, it was like, 'Whoa, this is a harsh reality.' When it comes to dating someone you need to notice the red flags. If you see that and you realize that it's a problem, you need to like find out how did this happen."

Did The Clothesline Project spark a discussion between the classmates at Greenwood Middle School?

"I feel like it did because now we started to know each other a little bit more and what we are feeling," said GMS eighth-grader Trevor Capien. 

RELATED: 'Let's do this together': Indianapolis director saddened, but not discouraged in pursuit to help domestic violence survivors

Hoffman-Wehmeier has been a teacher on the south side for 25 years, but this is the first year she’s used The Clothesline Project to teach about domestic abuse. She said it’s been so effective with the students at Greenwood Middle School, she will definitely be doing it again next year and for years to come.

"I think it's important for them to learn early on that relationships should not hurt," said Hoffman-Wehmeier. "Physical pain should never be part of a relationship. Emotional damage should never be part of it. So if they can learn before they get into something that can't get out of, then I think that we all have done our jobs."

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