Slipke: Oklahoma City police, school district team up to help children exposed to trauma


Oklahoma City school officials and police have teamed up to help students who are exposed to trauma through a new initiative called Handle with Care.

It's a simple idea, but one that they hope will have a big impact on the lives of local students.

When police officers encounter a child who has experienced a traumatic situation, such as domestic violence, a car wreck or the arrest of a parent, they send an email to the school district with the child's name and age or school so school officials can check on the child the next day.

To protect the child's privacy, officers don't include any details about what happened. The email simply says "Handle with Care." But those three words are all school officials need to know.

"If we have a kiddo that has experienced trauma and we don't know about it, that student is sitting in class dealing with a lot of feelings and thoughts, maybe feeling alone," said Teri Bell, executive director of student support services for Oklahoma City Public Schools. "And if we have a staff member who just pays that extra attention, they don't feel so alone."

School officials don't ask the student about what happened. They simply monitor the child and try to provide extra care. If a student is a repeat "Handle with Care" referral, then the school might take additional steps and get the social worker involved or pull in the parents, Bell said.

The program is modeled after one that was piloted in Charleston, West Virginia, and it's catching on locally. The Oklahoma City Fire Department now participates. The Midwest City Police Department decided to adopt the program, too.

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said his department is working with each of the four school districts that have schools in the community: Mid-Del, Oklahoma City, Choctaw-Nicoma Park and Crutcho.

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