GALLATIN COUNTY — School superintendents in Bozeman say when students walk through the doors, you never know what they might be going through. A new program is making its way to schools in Gallatin County to help students who have recently gone through 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 their home and they come to school tired, unprepared for a test, or without homework, a teacher would be very understanding of that,” said King.
At a press conference today, Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer announced the launch of the program.
“Oftentimes, deputies and officers go to scenes and see children that have been involved in traumatic events, whatever that might be,” said Springer.
Springer said these traumatic events can cause students to act out.
“Whether they're tired, moody, defiant, or other high-risk behaviors,” said Springer.
Springer said staff at schools usually resort to disciplining the student, but they are hoping to change that.
“The goal of this program is to notify the school with an email that says, 'Handle with Care,' with the child’s name and age,” said Springer. “Now, they can recognize and give them support.”
The staff at schools in Gallatin County will undergo training to handle these students with care, providing an empathetic response, an opportunity to talk with a counselor, a break from class, or even a place to sleep. However, according to Erin Clements, the director of youth and family programs, there are limits to how staff can intervene.
“We also want to protect the student's privacy, so it's not an opportunity to go seek out that child and get information,” said Clements.
Bozeman Police Chief Jim Veltkamp said the program highlights the importance of collaboration between law enforcement agencies in Gallatin County to make sure none of these students slip through the cracks.
“We have a combined records management system which allows us to work together and see the same information,” said Veltkamp. “That is important because a lot of the 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 is the primary goal of the program,” said Springer, “to fill the gaps in services we need to help these kids.”