HARTS — On August 11, United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Boothe Goodwin announced the rolling out of a pilot program known as Hand With Care at Hugh Dingess Elementary School.
The program encourages key stakeholders in the community like schools, law enforcement, mental health providers, parent organizations and victim advocacy groups to open communication to help children deal with traumatic experiences. The aim of the program is for law enforcement to recognize and record details of children at crime scenes and inform schools that those children may need to be handled with care.
No details of the crime or situation surrounding the child are given to schools; however, the knowledge a child may act out, need extra support or space or have trouble in a myriad of ways is seen as sufficient by the program. Schools are only notified that a child may need to be handled with care in the near future.
Sammy Dalton, the principal at Hugh Dingess Elementary, opened the meeting welcoming the stakeholders, “We are honored to be a pilot school for this Handle With Care program. This is a program that I think will really make a positive difference in the lives of children.”
Goodwin went on to give a presentation explaining the metrics and minutiae of the Handle With Care program, and in doing so detailed the conception of the program saying, “I was talking early in my tenure with a group of leaders at the federal correctional institution down in Beckley…about when would it have been that we would have had to engage with someone to keep them on right path. I think we all agreed it was…in the middle school and high school range. One of those leaders went back to the federal correctional institution, and she taught the GED program there. She asked…,’When would it have been that we would have had to intervene with you to keep you on the right path?’ There was no disagreement. They said it was sometime between seven and nine years old.”
Throughout the presentation, Goodwin explored the shared role of making those positive interventions in children’s lives before they get on the wrong track by detailing the expected outcomes of the program for both law enforcement and education professionals. Handle With Care involves law enforcement officers to take the name, age and school of children at crime scenes and forward that information along with the words, “hand with care,” to the Logan County Board of Education. The board of education then passes the information along to bus drivers, aids, custodians and teachers at the child’s school. Educators and other professionals in the education system are receiving training involving positive interventions like counseling, therapy, napping or rescheduling exams for those children who need to be handled with care.
The Handle With Care pilot program will begin at Hugh Dingess Elementary Aug. 17 and run through Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, 2016, the Hand With Care program will be implemented at every school in Logan County.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]