Schools, law enforcement make good decision on trauma

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Working without all of the pertinent facts in any situation is not ideal. In any line of work, or in life outside of professional settings, we all operate better when we have all of the relevant information at our disposal to make the best decisions we can. When we must make decisions and react to situations without all the necessary information, mistakes can happen and poor outcomes are more likely.

Local law enforcement agencies and the Troup County School System took an important step to remedy that potential problem on Monday afternoon when a memorandum of understanding was signed that created a workable plan for alerting the school system when a student is exposed to trauma. The school system, along with the LaGrange Police Department, Troup County Sheriff’s Office, Hogansville Police Department and the West Point Police Department all signed the MOU entitled ‘Handle With Care’ on Monday, which states that when law enforcement agencies respond to a call and discover a child to have been involved in a potentially traumatic event, that agency 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.

Such a joint decision is an intelligent one by all parties concerned. The evidence related to childhood trauma and the potential impacts that can have on young people continues to mount, and should be handled in the most effective way possible when encountered by our schools and law enforcement officials alike. This plan does not share unnecessary details with the school system or teachers, protecting the privacy of the affected child, but does alert the school that any short-term or long-term behavioral problems may be the result of exterior factors outside of the child’s control.

“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.”

That is a succinct overview of why this MOU has been signed and will soon be put into practice. When teachers and school administrators are aware of events such as these, they will be better positioned to help the affected student, and at the very least will be more cognizant of what might be the root cause of any surprising behavioral problems.

The MOU has also purposefully been left vague, to allow law enforcement officers to report a wide array of incidents to the schools. Tightening the scope of the definition of trauma, in this case, would impede the intended outcome.

We all work better with as much information as we can get, and giving the school system a glimpse into the exterior factors that may impact school behavior is a positive step, both for the students and teachers.