Oftentimes a teacher’s first sign of trauma is when a child acts out.
A pilot program launched this week by the San Antonio Police Department will help schools be more proactive by giving them advanced notice that a student might have been exposed to violence or other potentially traumatizing events involving the police.
“The ultimate goal is to help children succeed in school,” said Police Chief William McManus at a news conference Wednesday, announcing the pilot in partnership with the San Antonio, East Central and North East independent school districts.
The message sent to schools will include the students’ name, age, school and the phrase “handle with care.” No details of the incident will be shared with school staff in order to protect the child’s privacy.
Department spokesman Doug Greene said SAPD officers are glad for the opportunity to better help the kids they see on the job.
“Police officers are parents too, and a lot of the scenes that they go to, this really touches them, breaks their hearts,” Greene said.
About 50 schools are participating in the Handle with Care pilot, including 28 at SAISD, 11 at NEISD and eight at ECISD. SAISD has 95 schools, NEISD has 68 and ECISD has 10.
“It’s very rare that students do not thrive in school because they do not care,” said East Central Superintendent Roland Toscano. “What we lack often is information that is prompting their lack of effort or attention or whatever it is that is preventing them from thriving. So the more information that we have, the more likely we are able to serve them with the right lens of empathy.”
East Central also has a districtwide program called EC Cares that trains all staff, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers, to recognize signs of trauma.
San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said his district has a limited number of social workers and counselors, and this program will help ensure his staff goes where they are needed.
The Handle with Care pilot is modeled after a program adopted by West Virginia State Police in 2013. Officials said it could expand to other schools, including charter and private schools, and to other police departments after they take stock of the success of the first semester in May.
Camille Phillips can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille