ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford city leaders got an update Tuesday night on how violence is being addressed in city schools.

Among the programs discussed was “Handle with Care,” which alerts teachers and staff when a student is exposed to a violent or traumatic event. The Mayor’s Office on Domestic and Community Violence Prevention gave an update on all of the work they have done since the office was created in 2017.

They are dedicated to helping the entire community, but especially the children.

“It came on the heels of our understanding that we were really dealing with a crisis around our kids, and I say that with the complete belief that nobody in Rockford Public Schools would disagree with that statement,” said Jennifer Cacciapaglia, executive director of the Mayor’s Office on Domestic and Community Violence Prevention.

The office has been working with Rockford Public Schools to respond to violence.

“To date as I sit here, the data that we have through, or the information that we have through October 7, 2022, is that since February 7, 2022, when Handle with Care launched, the Rockford Public Schools have received notices on 1,929 children in the buildings that needed a ‘Handle with Care’ notice,” Cacciapaglia said.

The office has been collaborating with RPS 205 since May 2021. While they continue to focus on building upon the partnership and utilizing “Handle with Care,” they also want to focus on teen dating violence.

“I am going to say explicitly and clearly that the teen dating violence policy that is on the books in Rockford Public Schools does not meet the standards that the state legislature anticipated and requested when they passed that law,” Cacciapaglia said.

Spreading awareness about the issue is one of the most important steps.

“We have got to make sure that the teen dating violence policy is something that every parent and student in those buildings know about, that they know what to do if they are a victim within the school or outside of the school and need protection within it, and that the teachers and support staff within those buildings know what to do if a student comes to them in crisis around a sexual or domestic violence issue,” Cacciapaglia said.

Being there for the children is the driving motivation behind a lot of what the office does for the community.

“We have got to do better about messaging and responding to our children who are experiencing this violence in our schools,” Cacciapaglia said.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.