- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas state education officials and high school coaches on Friday launched a program aimed at student athletes to prevent and raise awareness of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

The ProtectHer Project, developed in response to a string of high profile assault cases involving professional and college athletes, will initially target public middle and high school athletes but will eventually be expanded to include all students.

The 21,000-member Texas High School Coaches Association, taking the lead in developing the program, plans to have an instructional video ready to distribute at its annual convention this summer.

“Young adult dating violence has become a tremendous problem in our high schools and colleges, affecting our youth in every community across the nation,” said D.W. Rutledge, executive director of the coaches association.

Officials say the program will be the first of its kind in the country. All of the money for the program will be raised privately. The NBA’s Houston Rockets have already donated $25,000, officials said.

High school coaches are in a unique position of authority and respect to deliver lessons on respect and personal accountability, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said. Some of the issues to be addressed will include the legal concept of consent in sexual relations, justice and accountability.

State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, said athletes are a good target audience.

“It’s important for young athletes to learn early in life that even if they are fast, aggressive and tough, that they mustn’t behave that way in their interpersonal relationships,” Aycock said.

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