A Douglas County School District program aimed at supporting students experiencing trauma and one of the program's leaders received accolades at the county and national level for having a positive impact on the community.
District Director of Mental Health Stephanie Crawford-Goetz received the Ron King Service Award at the Nov. 15 school board meeting from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for her efforts to support homless youth and mental health initiatives, including the Youth Crisis Response Team and the Handle with Care program.
“I want to share with you this is a major award and we are just so honored,” Sheriff-elect Darren Weekly said as he presented the award. “You go above and beyond on a regular daily basis for the youth in our community and from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Thank you for all you do.”
The award is named for former Douglas County deputy Ron King, who was one of the first school resource officers and was known for his dedication to helping young people. King was killed when he was struck by a drunk driver while on duty in 1999 and the award honors his memory. The sheriff’s office selects a law enforcement and civilian winner each year.
Crawford-Goetz thanked the school board and school staff for their support for providing quality mental health resources for students.
“This work is done by all the amazing people in our schools, every day working hard for our kids, and our community and our law enforcement,” Crawford-Goetz said. “I’m so proud to be a part of this community and have everyone wrapping around kids the way we do to support their mental health, wellbeing and safety.”
Additionally, the Handle with Care program, which Crawford-Goetz implemented with the help of Lt. Rob Rotherham, received the 2022 Extra Mile Award in October from the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice.
The Handle with Care program is a partnership between the schools and the sheriff’s office, which allows law enforcement to notify the schools when a student experienced something traumatic or had a law enforcement interaction so that school staff can provide any extra support the student may need.
Weekly said the program has resulted in 450 notices since starting in February 2021.
“I’ll tell you as a law enforcement officer for 29 years this was a major void in our community,” Weekly said. “Kids who experience trauma the night before, whether that be domestic violence or something serious, are being sent to school the next morning, so this is an amazing program that was long overdue.”
Crawford-Goetz later told Colorado Community Media that traumatic events, such as food instability, home insecurity or domestic violence, can lead students to have academic or behavioral problems.
“Often when our students are behaving unusually what the student might be trying to communicate is the recent trauma the child may have been exposed to,” she said.
Using the Handle with Care designation is a trauma-informed way to provide context for teachers and counselors while maintaining student and family privacy, Crawford-Goetz explained.
Superintendent Erin Kane emphasized during the award ceremony how the lucky the district is to have strong partnerships, like the one with the sheriff’s office, that work to serve students better.
“We are so fortunate in this district to have the incredible partnership between you two,” she said. “I can’t thank you both enough.”