Posted Date: 03/06/2020
EPS, Local Officials Adopt ‘Handle with Care’
We must be hope-givers, DA says
A new partnership between Enid Public Schools and local law enforcement will provide students with greater support during difficult times.
The “Handle with Care” initiative is designed to boost coordination between law enforcement and school-level personnel to ensure students affected by trauma-related events receive the additional attentiveness and assistance they need.
“We greatly appreciate the cooperation of the Enid Police Department and the Garfield County Sherriff’s Department,” EPS program coordinator Polly Maxwell said. “EPS is focused on making trauma-informed decisions for our students because many face difficult physical, social or emotional circumstances that impact their lives and their success in school. This partnership will help us better serve their needs.”
Through the program, law enforcement officers will identify children at the scene of a traumatic event, such as a domestic violence situation, a car wreck or arrest of a parent or guardian. Officers will then send an email to Maxwell with the child’s name and the message “Handle with Care.” She will then forward the information to the appropriate school principal. No details of the situation will be shared with school officials.
Maxwell said intervention, if needed, will be handled in a confidential and non-intrusive way. Even a simple, but intentional, greeting can make a big difference, she said.
“When students are dealing with a traumatic situation, they may be late to school, they may not have their homework finished or they may act-out in negative ways,” Maxwell said. “This brief notification from law enforcement will tell us they have faced a distressing situation, and it will allow us to slow down and provide them with extra support and patience, no matter what the day holds.”
Police Chief Brian O’Rourke said EPD officers are pleased to help protect and support Enid’s children in this unique way.
“The Enid Police Department believes this program will assist students who have potential traumatic issues outside of school hours to be better understood while in school,” O’Rourke said. “It is a great way to give confidential support for our youth who may be having problems at home. “
District Attorney Mike Fields recommended the program after he saw its success in other areas of the state. As a member of law enforcement, he said he recognizes the correlation between experiences in one’s childhood and challenges experienced later in life.
“When children witness domestic violence, it has lasting consequences. It can negatively affect almost every aspect of their lives,” Fields said. “The Handle with Care program is a way that law enforcement and our schools can work together to intervene in the life of a child who’s just experienced a traumatic event.”
All parties, including Fields, hope the program will expand to include more school districts and law enforcement agencies.
“I’m encouraged that as we’ve learned more and more about how exposure to trauma affects young people, our community is finding ways to specifically tailor its response to help our children overcome the challenges they face as a result of the trauma,” he said. “We must be hope-givers. We have to find ways to help children unwind the consequences of trauma so it does not define their future. This program is an important step in that direction. I can’t applaud our schools and law enforcement partners loudly enough for the way they’ve worked together to make this happen.”