Schools Address Student Trauma in Partnership with Police

School is a routine part of any child’s week, but events that happen outside the classroom can affect how they approach their learning.

Whether it’s a fight between parents, a death in the family, or an arrest, law enforcement who encounter students during a traumatic call or crisis will provide a minimal tip to the school before the bell rings that they need to be “handled with care.” Parents can also contact the school directly.

Once the police department notifies the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, the District Office contacts the administrator of the school the child attends. School staff are notified on a “need to know” basis and details of the situation are not given to protect the student’s privacy.

The child will be monitored for changes in behavior or signs that he or she needs additional support. If these are noted, a Student Services staff member is informed and steps are taken to help the student.

“The school implements individual, class and whole school trauma-sensitive curricula so that traumatized children are ‘Handled With Care,’” said Police Chief Rick Gramza. “If a child needs more intervention, on-site trauma-focused mental healthcare is available at the school.”

Resources for the student include the Student Services staff of counselors, psychologists, school nurses, and social workers. Community mental health agencies who have already counseled a student are able to provide their services at school. Both the middle and high school started an individualized at-risk program this year for students who are not qualified for special education, but need extra support.

The district conducts Trauma Sensitive training for all staff at the building level and additional development opportunities for interested staff.

Students are also given a part in promoting their mental health. “Some positive interventions for all students in our schools include mindfulness activities, guidance and health curriculums include topics and skills that promote mental health, and our PBIS programs (Positive Behavior, Intervention, and Supports),” said Lisa Goeppinger, School Social Worker.

Goeppinger discussed starting Handle with Care with the police department after information was shared in a meeting for the Marshfield Area Coalition for Youth (MACY). The program was implemented in spring 2017.

“I think it’s important to help anyone when it comes to crisis and trauma. It’s one of the reasons we have our chaplain program,” Gramza said. “Communication is always good, and is one of the first things to sometimes be forgotten about and minimized.”

The initiative comes at a time when trauma-responsive practices have become a trending topic nationwide. This year, the School District of Marshfield started an Individualized At-Risk program for students at the middle and high school level. Madison and Lincoln Elementary schools have been involved in a pilot program addressing trauma through the Marshfield Child Advocacy Clinic/Resilience Clinic, which includes staff training, brain and body breaks throughout the day for students, and parent sessions.

“When schools are able to identify students who have experienced trauma, it allows school personnel to better support students, more closely monitor their well-being, and offer timely interventions (as needed) that will hopefully minimize the impact of trauma so the student can focus on learning,” said Goeppinger.

Kaylin S
Author: Kaylin S

Email the team at [email protected]