Texas House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety – HB 1537
SUMMARY – On April 17, Chief Medical Officer Roshni Koli, MD, provided invited testimony before the House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety in support of House Bill 1537. HB 1537, by Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin), aims to establish a child trauma awareness program in state law known as “Handle with Care” (HWC).
HWC is a program that enables law enforcement officers to notify schools if they encounter a child at a traumatic scene, such as the death of a loved one or witnessing domestic violence. This allows schools to have a better understanding of events that may affect a student’s behavior and provide trauma- and grief-informed support, if necessary.
Moreover, HWC is paired with schoolwide training to identify the signs of a child experiencing trauma, such as withdrawal, grief, disruptive behavior, tearfulness, or anger. This program shifts the focus of interaction with the child from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” – a more empathetic approach.
During her testimony, Dr. Koli highlighted sudden loss and subsequent bereavement as the most prevalent form of trauma. She also referenced the Trauma and Grief Center’s successful program in Galena Park ISD to illustrate how HWC can help schools respond to trauma in a supportive, rather than disciplinary, way.