No big secret that collaborative partnerships build a stronger community.

It’s the TEAM mentality – Together, Everyone Achieves More.

And when partnerships are formed specifically to maintain the well-being of our children – or be mindful when a child’s life is disrupted by some form of trauma – is there a better reason to work in concert with one another?

Recently, West Aurora School District 129 installed an initiative called “Handle with Care,” a collaborative effort to mitigate the effects of trauma impacting the district’s youth. District 129 officials called on local law enforcement agencies, including the Fox Valley Park District’s Police & Public Safety Department, to alert them when police become involved in a student’s life outside of school.

FVPD joins law enforcement agencies from Aurora, North Aurora, Montgomery and Kane County to support the school district’s initiative.

“When there are traumatic things that happen in children’s homes, they come to school and they harbor that,” says Marti Neahring, West Aurora’s director of student services. “When you’ve been up all night, or you’ve had something bad happen to mom or dad, or someone you care about, and you have to go to school and have that in the back of your mind, we know that kids handle trauma in different ways.”

Examples of a traumatic event include (but are not limited to): a house fire, death of a family member, home invasion or domestic violence in the home.

When a responding/reporting officer identifies that a D129 student is in some way involved, the officer sends an email to Neahring and Kevin Triplett, West’s school safety officer, that simply reads: “Handle [student name, age, school] with care.”

“We don’t need to know what happened,” Neahring says, “but if we know that there was some kind of traumatic impact and we can share that with teachers, they can be a little more empathetic when a student is falling asleep in class or not wanting to do their work that day.”

So how does park district law enforcement come into play?

As Jeff Logan, the FVPD’s deputy chief of police, explains: “Anything that happens in the City of Aurora can easily happen – and unfortunately does – in our parks and facilities.”

Logan, along with local school and law enforcement officials, sits on the Aurora Area School Safety Committee, which meets monthly to address opportunities on how schools and law enforcement can team to add protective measures in the spirit of children’s well-being.

“When the school district brought ‘Handle with Care’ to our attention, it just clicked, like, ‘This is perfect,’” Logan says. “We had no other decision than to support it fully. It makes absolute sense.”

According to Logan, there was no formal training required for the FVPD’s 12 sworn officers, other than to educate them on the initiative and explain the procedure should an officer identify a D129 student is impacted by an incident that requires police involvement on FVPD property.

“It’s an initiative we see as being extremely advantageous,” Logan says. “Let’s have a little more patience, some understanding, some empathy. And let’s do our part in making sure that educators are aware when their children are in some way impacted when a traumatic event occurs outside of school.”