New program alerts school officials to traumatic home incidents

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MASSENA — Massena Central School students who experience a traumatic incident at home that involves the Massena Police Department are now receiving some extra attention at their school under a new program called “Handle With Care.”

Officers who respond to the incident now follow up and share information about the student with district representatives so they’re aware of the situation and can work with the student in a separate manner.

“If they’re up at 2:30 and see something, that child may not be the same that day. Don’t punish the kid for that,” Police Chief Adam J. Love said.

He said that, when a police officer responds to a traumatic incident such as domestic abuse or sexual abuse, police get the child’s name and age and send an email to Kristin Colarusso-Martin, the district’s community schools site coordinator, before the start of the next school day. Ms. Colarusso-Martin then accesses the “SchoolTool” program to find out what school the student attends, and alerts school officials to the situation.

“She will find out where that child goes to school,” Chief Love said. At that point, the principal, teacher and guidance counselor will step in and ensure the child receives whatever assistance might be necessary at school. He said school officials were “ecstatic” about the program.

Chief Love said Ms. Colarusso-Martin found a similar program in Virginia and suggested it be implemented in Massena.

“I adapted it for us,” he said.

So far, it’s showing positive results, according to Chief Love, who said officials have used the program six or seven times so far this school year to help children.

“That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the kids,” he said.

He will be giving a presentation about the program in Plattsburgh in a couple of weeks, and said he is also working with other law enforcement agencies, such as state police, to try and adapt it for their use.

“We’re trying to build it into law enforcement,” Chief Love said.

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