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Kids facing trauma, first responders and schools now working together to help

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:03 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Police reports shy away from sharing details that could potentially put someone at risk of being hurt. But, what about when someone is already at risk?

Like a child.

A new policy shift, called Handle with Care, is allowing police to share with schools when they cross paths with a child facing a traumatic encounter at home or elsewhere.

RCPD Lieutenant, Tim Doyle, says, “It’s just a collaboration between law enforcement and schools to respond to it better. The kid went through some stuff. Let’s not compound that the next day at school by overreacting to something they didn’t have control over.”

Jamie Kirsch, RCPD, says, “There was a lot of time and effort put into making sure that all of the law enforcement partners were trained in adverse child experiences.”

The idea spurred out of 65 other U.S. cities that have similar programs, and the goal is to provide the child with sensitive support right away.

It’s something that is meant to help the needs of individual children, according to Sarah Zimmerman, Social Emotional Education Coordinator with RCAS.

“If the student comes to school and we’ve received a notice and they’re not showing any specific needs, they’re just going to go through their day. But, if they’re tired, if they’re emotionally dysregulated,” says Zimmerman, “we’re going to get them hooked up with support.”

It works in 3 steps.

• Police notify the District’s lead social worker with one message, their name and “Handle with care.”

• That social worker passes it off to the appropriate teacher or counselor. They’ll monitor the child.

• If needed, they’ll be referred elsewhere depending on the severity of the case.

Monica Waltman, the Special Services Director for the Douglas School District, says, ““Behavior is something that school districts respond to all the time, and it’s always a puzzle. This is one piece of the puzzle we can, I think, cut down on that fact finding. Like, goodness sakes, ‘What’s happening with this little person?’ Now we have one way of stream lining that process that we’re taking care of kids the way that need to be taken care of.”

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