MANATEE COUNTY – ‘Handle with Care’ is a quick message law enforcement can send to schools that has the potential to make a big difference in the lives on students.

If a child is dealing with trauma at home, it can affect their focus in the classroom.

“It could be spousal abuse,” Kramer said. “It could be a shooting in the neighborhood; so many different things are traumatic for kids. So, the intention is when there is law enforcement involved, is to give the schools a heads up, it just simply says ‘Handle with Care.”

The ‘Handle With Care’ program spearheaded by Drug Free Manatee connects law enforcement agencies with Manatee County Schools to let them know to watch out for a particular student.

“Something happened to this student which may affect the student’s behavior in class this morning,” Manatee School’s Supervisor of Alternative Programs Michael McCann said. “So the idea is to be cognizant of that type of behavior.”

The ‘Handle with Care’ message protects student’s privacy and doesn’t say what the traumatic situation is. After starting Monday, April 2, Manatee County Schools have received three ‘Handle with Care’ calls.

“We notify the principal,” McCann said. “A guidance counselor who has volunteered to be involved in this, a school nurse who has volunteered to be a part of this, and I’m very glad to say when we approached the nurses and guidance counselors they were raising their hand and wanting to be a part of this.”

The program can help schools be proactive in providing care to students.

“And not to react to misbehavior or a child feeling unwell or sleepy or whatever,” Kramer said. “But looking beyond that and just trying to create a safer environment, and the child feels safe and protected and he can learn.”

This is the first time these agencies are able to connect to care for the mental health of students.

“Our guidance counselors and our social workers are already trained in these particular areas,” McCann said. “The issue is many times we may sense something may have happened, but we don’t know what it is.”

“The systems are isolated in silos,” Kramer said, “and when we can connect and let each other know what’s happening with our children, we can create the safety net and protection children can feel and then they can focus on their school they can thrive get well, and graduate.”

The Department of Children and Family services can also send a ‘Handle with Care’ message to the schools.