Handle With Care program at Mandan Public Schools helps students

MANDAN, N.D. - There were nearly 13,700 child abuse and neglect reports in North Dakota in 2016. And, of the 6,000 incidents of domestic violence reported to crisis intervention centers, more than half directly impacted children.

The Mandan School district is rolling out a new program to help bridge the gap between what happens at home and what's expected in class.

Trauma from incidents these incidents can interfere with a child's education and lead to academic and emotional difficulties.

The Handle With Care program is creating a safety net for students in these situations.

When these occurrences happen, we can do something about it.

Domestic Violence. Child abuse and neglect. Issues that can get in the way of school work.

Mandan Public Schools are using a new program to fix this issue. It's simple and free.

“We don't tell what happened or how it happened. We just let them know that this child just needs a little extra attention,” said Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler.

If there is a domestic violence call or anything of that nature, the patrol officer on duty sends a special Handle With Care email that reaches the superintendent and three other administrators. Then the district office does a search to find the student and a notice is forwarded to the school building.

“It was a no brainer when the police department and Prevent Child Abuse came to us and rolled out this program. It was just a win-win for everybody,” said MPS Superintendent Mike Bitz.

A simple heads up from law enforcement, opening up communication in the school system.

“It definitely is a community effort. It's organizations working together to make sure that the mental health of the child is taken care of,” said Ziegler.

The program was just started last fall. Since then it has been utilized 20 times and not just in elementary schools. The high school makes up for 25 percent of the program's usage.

Administrators got the idea from West Virginia, where Handle With Care is already up and running.

The program started in 2013, and there's an app where the Handle With Care update is sent as an anonymous text message.

Superintendent Bitz says he hopes the program will evolve and eventually catch up with West Virginia.