East Central ISD Superintendent Roland Toscano answers questions from reporters regarding the Handle with Care program.
East Central ISD Superintendent Roland Toscano answers questions about the Handle with Care program. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Three local school districts will partner with the San Antonio Police Department in a new program designed to help keep students in school and learning even after they experience traumatic incidents.

The trial program announced Wednesday aims to connect the San Antonio Police Department and school administrators and teachers at East Central, San Antonio, and North East Independent School Districts, alerting them to students who have been involved in traumatic incidents such as assaults, drug raids, or homicides.

After SAPD officers respond to a traumatic incident involving a student, SAPD will send a confidential email to the student’s school district telling them to handle that student “with care.”

No additional details about the incident will be shared and the schools will not ask any additional questions. The student’s teachers will be notified so they can direct special attention and sensitivity to the student. Teachers and staff in participating schools have been trained on how to handle the information, school district officials said.

The pilot program called Handle With Care will launch this week and last through May. It will start with more than more than 40 schools across all grades in the three districts, with the bulk in SAISD. All the selected schools are all within the geographic boundary of the SAPD East Patrol Unit.

East Patrol was selected for the program because it covered a large portion of SAISD schools along with campuses from other districts. SAISD was the first district to express interest in the program.

“One thing that we definitely know is that it is very rare that students do not thrive in school because they don’t care,” East Central ISD Superintendent Roland Toscano said. “What we lack often is information that is prompting their lack of effort or attention or whatever it is that is preventing them from thriving.”

This “handle with care” alert will help combat trauma outside of school, Toscano said.

After the pilot program is complete, the partners plan to review the results and discuss potential for expansion. This review will include looking at how many notifications SAPD makes to school districts and what kind of care is administered as a result.

The Handle with Care program originated in West Virginia in 2013 and has expanded to other states and districts since.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.