WILLIAMSON – At Tuesday’s meeting, the Mingo County Commission approved a motion allowing 911 dispatchers to participate in the Handle With Care Program.
Handle With Care is a cooperative effort between law enforcement, 911 dispatchers and the Board of Education that enables schools to be aware of children involved in traumatic events.
Teresa Maynard, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, approached the commission stating, “Today I am here on behalf of the Child Abuse Investigative (CAI) Team and we have some other members of the team here today; Vicky Fields with the Board of Education (BOE), Brooke Honaker Victim Advocate in Logan County, and Nettie Goan with Mingo County Child Advocacy Center…”
Maynard explained that the CAI team was approached by representatives from the United States Attorney’s office about starting a Handle With Care program in Mingo County.
Maynard then discussed the Handle With Care Program. A handout was also provided at the meeting explaining the “Handle with Care” initiative.
The handout states, “Handle With Care is an initiative that began as a pilot in the Kanawha County school system. The purpose of the project is to notify school personnel when a child(ren) have been victims of a traumatic event within their family residence or a residence where they are currently a member. When law enforcement and/or other agencies respond to a situation where children are at the scene and have witnessed domestic violence, a shooting in the neighborhood, drug raid, or other significant response by law enforcement and/or other responding agencies will be asked to provide the child’s local school system with a confidential note, email , fax, or other agreed upon method of notification ; in other words, a very simple statement notifying the educational system to handle with care the child(ren) listed on the correspondence.”
The handout also notes that to protect the child as well as sensitive information, Handle With Care will not provide specific and or detailed information on what the child encountered.
The role of the Logan and Mingo Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is also explained in the handout stating, “The Logan/Mingo Child Advocacy Center has made a commitment to the U.S. Attorney’s office that we would be responsible for an organizational meeting to share the information with the local school administration and first responders. However, it is important to understand that CAC will not be part of the on-going steps for this program as we are not first responders, but as always, we are committed to help in any way possible.”
Following the discussion explaining the Handle with Care Program, Maynard explained her reason for approaching the commission. “Law enforcement, all our agencies and the BOE is on board with this. They already have a plan in place of how we are going to get the notification to them. They are going to set up an email account… The problem lies in getting the information from law enforcement to the individual employed by the BOE that will handle the email and notify the school…In our area, we have determined that the best way for this to happen is through the 911 center. That is why I am here today. I need your cooperation… It is at no cost to you. It is going to take a few seconds from a 911 operator that obtains the information from the law enforcement officer that is radioed in and they do a short email that says five words: a name, a school, and handle with care. I am asking today that you make that a part of the 911 operators duties,” Maynard stated.
Commissioner Diann Hannah expressed concern for children’s privacy by having law enforcement radio in the information. “Is that coming over radio? Everyone with a scanner would hear that… There is no privacy there,” Hannah stated.
A discussion continued that focused on finding a different way for law enforcement to notify 911 without the information concerning children being broadcast on public 911 frequencies. After discussing the issue, the commission decided that having the officer call in over the telephone would better protect the children involved.
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith stated, “I make a motion that we direct our 911 dispatchers to participate with the Handle With Care program on the condition that law enforcement officers not say the name of the children over the radio, that it be kept more private and done in a phone call to 911. All of those lines are recorded anyway, and there would be proof that the call was made.”
The motion was approved unanimously by the commission.
More information on Handle With Care can be found by visiting http://www.handlewithcarewv.org.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)