New program launched to help students cope with trauma

SMYRNA — The Smyrna School District is preparing to assist students returning to class after experiencing potentially traumatic encounters.

The state-sponsored Take Care Delaware pilot program will allow officials to consider students’ emotional needs immediately following a crisis.

Rollout is targeted for December.

“As part of our ‘social and emotional learning’ investment in our students and our staff, we must take on this charge,” superintendent Dr. Patrik Williams said.

“When our students are suffering in school, they may need accommodations to help them be successful. Knowing that our students have had an encounter outside of school that escalated to the level of law enforcement involvement will help us to support those who may need it most.”

State Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover North, sponsored legislation that allows law enforcement officers or emergency care providers to notify school administrators of stressful events occurring after school ends.
House Bill 74 passed unanimously during the 150th General Assembly in June and Gov. John Carney signed it into law on July 26.

“Children deserve to thrive at their full potential, and this program ensures children are receiving wraparound services and support,” Rep. Lynn said when the bill was completed.

Following a student’s traumatic incident after leaving school, Dr. Williams said he or the district’s assistant superintendent will receive a state-generated “Take Care Delaware” email with a student’s name and no further details.

“The superintendent or the assistant superintendent will then go to the school of record for the student named and meet with the building administrator and the teacher or teachers who have direct contact with that student,” Dr. Williams said.

“That meeting will reinforce that the student in question has experienced a potentially traumatic encounter, involving law enforcement in the past 24 hours and may suffer from post-traumatic stress while in school.
“The purpose of the meeting is to remind everyone of our trauma-invested training over the past year and to utilize ‘mindful observation’ of this student during the day.”

The ultimate goal is to bring the program to schools statewide, officials said.

Delaware State Police troopers will be the first contact for a traumatized child and “upon this discovery it is incumbent on the officer to follow the proper notification procedure,” spokeswoman Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said.

Added Cpl. Jaffe, “By far the best benefit of the program is that a child who has been traumatized from witnessing an incident will have every opportunity to be successful in school the following day versus possibly being sanctioned or impacted negatively in some fashion because of their actions.

“Equal benefits include ensuring wrap around services are provided to a child in need, the program fosters strengthening partnerships between law enforcement and the schools, and ultimately this program will reduce the amount of trauma caused to a child by preventing any unwarranted school related sanctions taken against a student who was traumatized from an incident.”

As a Take Care Delaware draft continued to establish parameters in the past year, Dr. Williams and the district’s school climate and safety supervisor trained staff for trauma support strategies during the process.
Dr. Williams said followup training will begin once school resumes on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

According to Rep. Lynn when the bill was finalized, “[a]s a former teacher and current family lawyer, I’ve seen firsthand how trauma can impact a child. If we can intervene and help when there is an issue, we should.
“I appreciate the support from the Delaware Children’s Department, Governor Carney, school resource officers, law enforcement and child advocates in making this program a reality.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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