A new program is being rolled out in all Ohio County schools, public and private, that will enhance communications between law enforcement and educators to protect kids.
The program is called “Handle with Care,” and it actually started in the Southern District of the state, and now Ohio County Prosecutor Scott Smith is leading the effort.
Without divulging the nature of the traumatic incident or other details about the child’s family, school officials will be notified when law enforcement officers have to respond to an emergency call at a home with children.
The premise is simple, but according to educators, counselors and resource officers, extremely valuable.
“We’ve always have really good communication with law enforcement. Fortunately, we do have resources officers that we work with regularly, but this is going to be a big improvement because we’re going to be able to help the students the very next day. Not finding out the information maybe from a friend or a parent a couple days later. We’ll be able to give that child support immediately,” said Allyson Kangisser, an elementary school counselor.
This will not only help the children immediately but also as they transition into adulthood.
“This program is gonna help because they’re going realize there are people that care. To know ahead of time, to be able to stop and talk to them and let them know you’re there for them. It just give them another strong adult in their life which will help them become better adults in their life,” said Heather Lewis, a counselor at Bridge Street Middle School.
Educators are always on the lookout for signs like social withdrawal, tardiness, high absenteeism, as well as dropping grades and loss of appetite– They want to give students extra attention and one on one care to help them succeed.
“Giving them extra time for studying or extra resources to help if they need counseling. This is all going to help them in the long run of their life,” said Sgt. John Schultz, resource officer at Wheeling Middle School.
Representatives from the Ohio County Sheriff Office, West Virginia State Police, and Wheeling PD were all in attendance, pleading their support for the program as well.
Chief Shawn Schwertfeger is going as far as making an official public mandate for this new practice.