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Cleveland County teaming up with local schools to protect children exposed to trauma

CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. – Authorities in Cleveland County are working with local schools to protect children who have been exposed to violence or other trauma.

In conjunction with Lexington, Little Axe, and Noble Public Schools, the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office is implementing a ‘Handle with Care’ program. The program is tailored to protect children who have been exposed to violence or other trauma.

“Children who have experienced violence, abuse or other trauma in their homes or environments should not be traumatized again by other unsuspecting adults in their lives,” said Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson. “Through communicating with schools when a child has been through an adverse childhood experience, law enforcement can make a real difference in those children’s lives.”

Officials say prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can seriously undermine a child’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn. When school officials don’t know why a child is acting out, that trauma can result in truancy, suspension or expulsion.

“Relationships are key to the success of the Handle with Care program,” Gibson said. “We will give a heads-up to Cleveland County schools when we know a child has experienced a traumatic event. The schools then know not to punish the child for acting out, but rather to provide intervention to help the recovery process.”

Officials say the sheriff’s office will let the school know when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event. Deputies will simply send the school a confidential email or text that says, “Handle [student, grade] with care.” However, no other details will be provided to them.

“We know our schools care and will ensure that Cleveland County children’s welfare is a top priority,” Gibson said. “The Sheriff’s Office is fortunate to be part of such a compassionate and caring community. Partnerships make us more effective.”

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