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Local school districts, law enforcement agencies getting involved in Handle With Care program


Later this month, Coffee County, Manchester and Tullahoma City Schools will begin its new partnership with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Coffee County Sheriff’s Department, Tullahoma Police and Manchester Police departments in the Handle With Care program.

“I am very excited to work with so many great community partners and see the long-term positive effect I think HWC will have for our children,” said Tullahoma Police Chief Jason Williams. 

Handle with Care was initiated in West Virginia in 2013. In Tennessee, school districts, along with law enforcement and other first responder agencies, have promoted the program statewide with the support of Governor Bill Lee and legislators.

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This agreement allows law enforcement partners to communicate with school and district officials when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event. Police officers are trained to identify children and find out where they go to school to ensure a confidential email gets to the school or district designee reminding staff to “Handle (student’s name) with care.”

“The most important thing is to ensure that all our students feel safe inside our schools,” said Tullahoma City Schools Director of Schools Dr. Catherine Stephens. “We also want to make sure that positive learning experiences continue for all students across the district. Handle With Care will aid in this process, and I look forward to working closely with our tremendous law enforcement partners on this new collaboration.”

This notification serves several purposes for the school and district officials. When the message is received, school or district administrators will observe the student more closely and watch for signs of traumatic stress. If additional support is needed, school or district officials will aid in that process, which can include referring the child to a school counselor or social worker if their behavior seems out of the ordinary. 

“Hopefully, this notification system can streamline communication between law enforcement and school-related personnel as we work to better support and assist with our children’s needs,” said Coffee County Sheriff Chad Partin. 

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Staff and district officials will utilize trauma-sensitive strategies when interacting with the student without drawing attention to them or treating them differently. During these interactions, school or district officials will not ask about the incident or press the student for additional information. 

“Coffee County schools look forward to extending our partnership with local law enforcement to better serve the needs of our students who are experiencing difficulties,” said Coffee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Lawson. “Handle With Care is a wonderful opportunity to be sure that a student who may be struggling with a situation at home is getting additional support at school.” 

According to a recent nationwide survey, more than 60 percent of students have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse. This exposure has proven to undermine a child’s ability to focus, behave appropriately and learn. The Handle With Care initiative aims to prevent children’s exposure to trauma and violence, mitigate the adverse effects experienced by children’s exposure to trauma and increase knowledge and awareness of this issue.

“We at the Manchester Police Department are proud to participate in the Handle with Care program to help foster safe and caring relationships with our communities’ school children,” said Manchester Police Chief Bill Sipe.

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Handle With Care programs promote safe and supportive homes, schools and communities that protect children and help traumatized children heal and thrive. HWC supports school-community partnerships to ensure that children exposed to trauma in their home, school or community receive appropriate interventions. 

“Handle With Care is an incredible opportunity for our community to build additional support for our students and families,” said Manchester City Schools Superintendent Dr. Joey Vaughn. “We have always had a wonderful working relationship with law enforcement, and this opportunity helps expand that work as we all strive to support all students.”

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