The Clarksville City Council has agreed to authorize an interlocal agreement that will launch a Handle with Care pilot program with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.
The program will enable Clarksville Police officers, along with Clarksville Fire Rescue, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s department, its volunteer fire service and EMS, to work together in notifying the district’s educators when a child has experienced a traumatic event in his or her life.
The notification, via an email, does not give details of the incident that took place, but includes the three words, “Handle with Care.”
In early August, the council decided to send the measure back to the public safety committee to address the councilmembers’ concerns regarding a disclosure statement.
By the Aug. 26 executive meeting, Clarksville Police Chief David Crockarell told the council the measure was ready to move forward.
“This program is in as many as 30 states now” Crockarell said. “And it is working across our state.”
Crockarell said the agreement is unique with all of the first responders coming together as one.
When the Handle with Care notification is triggered by first responders the spectrum of traumatic events that could be occurring in a student’s life is a wide one, according to Crockarell.
He said it could range from a child’s pet being hit by a car all the way to a homicide in the child’s home.
“We want to provide an environment for the child that is conducive for success and learning the next day,” Crockarell said. “Maybe its not the day to give the child a quiz. Maybe its not the day to go over and knock on the child’s desk and say, ‘You need to wake up.’”
Crockarell said he understands concern that parents should first be alerted, but the chief cautioned that sometimes it’s the parent who is a violator in children’s cases.
A disclosure statement has been added to the agreement so that parents will be informed each year about the Handle with Care program.
The statement on the interlocal agreement reads, “The district agrees to provide annual notice to its stakeholders (parents/guardians/students) that the Handle with Care program exists.”
Councilmember Wanda Smith said she would like the plan to also offer a parent the opportunity to opt out of the service.
When the measure first appeared before the council in early August, Councilmember Trisha Butler said she would vote against it unless parental consent was included.
“My kids are my business,” Butler said. “If we’re going to do something like this, it’s dang sure going to be with my consent to it.”
The resolution was approved 9-2. Both Smith and Butler voted no.