GALLATIN COUNTY — Principals in Bozeman say when students walk through the doors, you never know what they might go through. A new program is making its way to Gallatin County schools to help students who have recently experienced a traumatic event.
Deputy Superintendent Marilyn King says the program, called “Handle with Care,” will create a safe space for students who need it.
“If something happened to a student over the weekend at home and they came to school tired, unprepared for a test, or without homework, a teacher would be very understanding,” King said.
At a press conference today, Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer announced the launch of the program.
“A lot of times, deputies and officers go to the scene and see children who have been involved in traumatic events, whatever they may be,” Springer said.
Springer said these traumatic events can spur students to action.
“Whether they’re tired, moody, defiant, or other high-risk behaviors,” Springer said.
Springer said school staff typically use student discipline, but he hopes to change that.
“The purpose of this program is to notify the school with an email that says, ‘Handle with care,’ along with the child’s name and age,” Springer said. “Now they can recognize them and give them support.”
Staff at Gallatin County Schools will undergo training to handle these students with care, providing an empathetic response, an opportunity to speak with a counselor, a class break or even a place to sleep. However, according to Erin Clements, director of youth and family programs, there are limits to how staff can intervene.
“We also want to protect the privacy of the student, so this is not an opportunity to go after that child and get information,” Clements said.
Bozeman Police Chief Jim Veltkamp said the program highlights the importance of Gallatin County law enforcement working together to ensure none of these students pass. between the meshes of the net.
“We have a combined case management system that allows us to work together and see the same information,” Veltkamp said. “It’s important because a lot of students live in one jurisdiction and go to school in another jurisdiction.”
Sheriff Springer said they will continue to look for new ways to better support students in Gallatin County.
“That’s the main goal of the program,” Springer said, “to fill the gaps in the services we need to help these kids.”