Lansing Public School District will be implementing a program called Handle with Care starting in January 2018. The program will provide assistance to students of all grades who have experienced trouble with the law in the past 24 hours.
“The goal ultimately is to create trauma-informed school districts, environments and communities,” said Karlin Tichenor the Executive Director for School Culture department.
Tichenor said that the program will offer counseling if the student wants it and will open the door to other resources. The program is part of a growing national movement that started in West Virginia.
Jackson Public Schools piloted the program in February and had a lot of success with it so far, said Tichenor
One of Jackson’s partners for their Handle with Care program is LifeWays Community Mental Health.
Zoe Lyons with the Department of Health and Human Services said they had received 173 Handle with Care notices from the Jackson Police Department during this period.
“When teachers, social workers, or principals notice children having different behaviors following a traumatic incident the night before students are given the option to see a therapist that will come on site to the school’s campus,” Lyons said.
Jackson took the program countywide to bridge any gaps created by school of choice in the district.
Adam Williams, Lieutenant for Jackson Police Department, is in charge of getting the schools all of the Handle with Care notices.
“Basically the way it operates on the police side when we are out on the streets, any place we see a possibility that a child has experienced trauma, we fill out a form stating the date and time, child’s name and age, and school they attend and we forward it off to the school,” Williams said.
Williams said they recently started implementing the program in preschools in the county as well and they have already gotten numerous referrals.
The main goal of the program is not to ostracize kids, but to just monitor for unusual behaviors while not treating the kids any differently, Williams said.
There is no description of the incident on the Handle with Care notice to maintain privacy for the child’s family.
“No backstory is given to the schools when they receive a notice. The schools don’t know why the kids have Handle with Care notice and they are not aware of the circumstances the child underwent to experience trauma,” said Williams.
Lansing School District parent Laura Weed said she thinks the program will really add additional support to students.
“As a single mom who went through a domestic situation, I feel that if my son was around during that time that it would have been really helpful for him,” said Weed.
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Principal of Lewton Elementary school in Lansing, Tom Buffett, said school work is definitely affected by trauma.
“Often times kids exposed to trauma are highly reactive in school,” Buffett said.
Lansing Public School District is in the process of having staff members be more aware of trigger warnings making staff more sensitive of specific kid’s triggers.
“Through these trainings we have gained more compassionate responses from our staff. Our kids have a lot of family and economic related trauma, but kids are very resilient considering what they have been exposed too. Most kids surprisingly function very well through experiencing trauma,” Buffett said.
Buffett said he believes that through compassion and peace in schools the effects of trauma can be greatly reduced in children.
Rachel Gonzalez, a local psychologist currently studying child psychopathology, said that performance in school is the area that suffers the most after a child experiences trauma.
“When a kid sees violence at home, sometimes that’s what they portray in their lives,” Gonzalez said.
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