‘Handle with Care’ keeps teachers informed about students processing trauma

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 5:29 PM EDT
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BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) -As many students return to in-person learning, school districts are showing that mental health is a top priority.

16 News Now tells us how Berrien County law enforcement agencies and Berrien RESA are working together to put these words into actions.

The Handle with Care partnership discretely gives teachers the information they need to address students in their classroom who may be processing a traumatic event.

Teachers might not always catch the signals from a student who just went through a deeply disturbing experience.

This partnership allows law enforcement to confidentially share information about a student to the school so staff can be mindful of the child’s experiences.

“Let’s say I had four pop cans and one of them was shook. A lot of kids come to us that way. In other words, something has happened in the day and they’re a shook can. So, the Handle with Care lets you know which can is shook before it ever comes in. That’s the beauty of it is it lets you know that child is coming to me today and there’s some pretty traumatic stuff that’s happened in that kid’s life,” said Berrien RESA Superintendent Eric Hoppstock.

The process only shares the students name, age, school, and that they should be “Handled with Care”, protecting the student’s privacy, while keeping their teachers trauma informed.

“That communication is open for law enforcement to let the schools know that something happened and to raise awareness. That way we can intervene with whatever they need,” said Berrien RESA Education Technology Consultant Joe Rommel.

Rommel and Hoppstock say stress from the pandemic increase risk of traumatic experiences.

This partnership between Berrien County law enforcement and the school districts here actually all started back in the fall of 2019. However, it fizzled out when students had to go home, and the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Now with students back in the classroom these school districts are showing how their students' mental health remains a top priority.

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