Students walking home from school. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

Local prosecutors, police, and school officials Wednesday announced the creation of an app aimed at aiding students who have recently experienced trauma that may be affecting their behavior and performance at school.

The “Handle with Care” app allows police to inform schools if a student has recently experienced a traumatic event such as domestic violence in the home, the arrest of a family member or a violent crime, which may lead the child to act out or perform poorly.

Specifics of the incidents are not provided to schools or school districts and the notification does not become part of the child’s permanent record, according to a statement from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, which said the trauma and stress experienced outside of school can lead to the child getting into trouble rather than receiving support.

The app was first rolled out through a pilot program in which the Chula Vista Police Department, Chula Vista Elementary School District, and Sweetwater Union High School District took part, according to the DA’s office.

The program is now being implemented in El Cajon by the Cajon Valley School District and the El Cajon Police Department, while efforts to expand the program countywide are underway, according to the DA’s office.

The San Diego County Office of Education has also provided training materials that include what behavior to be alert for and what to say in response.

“Children who experience trauma in the home often don’t complete homework, do poorly on tests, and are withdrawn,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “This pilot program is a simple way we can alert teachers and school administrators and provide important context so they can monitor the child’s behavior and provide support if necessary.”

Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo welcomed the app.

“Trauma can undermine children’s ability to learn, form relationships and function appropriately in the classroom, whether virtually or in person,” he said. “Given the turbulent nature of our times, we are facing unprecedented levels of life-changing events. The Handle with Care Program will provide improved communication, compassionate engagement, and teacher sensitivity.”

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