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School system, law enforcement sign Handle With Care agreement

Local law enforcement agencies and the Troup County School System signed a memorandum of understanding Monday, creating a process for how the school system is to be notified when a student is exposed to trauma.

The agreement, which is titled “Handle with Care” creates a system whereby the LaGrange Police Department, Troup County Sheriff’s Office, Hogansville Police Department and West Point Police Department will notify the school system when any student is exposed to trauma. Law enforcement will send an email to the school system with the student’s name, age and school — if they know it. No other details will be provided.

“The idea is not to label attention or draw attention to children,” said Juvenile Court Judge Michael Key. “It’s just that when they show up in the door the next day … the school system will know this child has experienced something that could impact the child’s behavior in the short-term if not the long-term.”

There are numerous examples of a traumatic event that could impact a child’s behavior or focus at school. Some of the examples listed were the loss of a loved one, the arrest of a family member, homelessness, abuse or neglect and a natural disaster. However, the term “exposed to trauma” in the MOU was left generic on purpose, Key said.

“The notion is that it’s better to report something that maybe didn’t have to be reported than to miss something that didn’t have to be reported,” Key said.

Dr. Penny Johnson, assistant superintendent, curriculum and instruction, said the school system would like to have the system in place by the time students get back from Spring Break, which will be on April 8.

Law enforcement officials also agreed to that date.

“This is a great way to support our students and through this partnership our students will be better served in our schools,” Johnson said.

Law enforcement will deliver a handle with care report by sending an email to the school system.

A new email address was created just for these reports.

“Kids need us, so we are there to help,” West Point Police Chief Donald Britt said.

“It’s a good partnership between the schools and law enforcement.”