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Safety Funding Grows -  Focus is on Prevention and Planning

Photo by Daniel Brubaker

New safety efforts in schools will be focused on prevention and school climate under a wave of federal grant money that is being awarded based on the recommendations earlier this month by the Federal Commission on School Safety.

The funding, which is based on the suggestions of the final report of the commission, provides about $71.6 million to prevent incidents and increase mental health resources.

It includes funding in the following four areas, according the U.S. Department of Education:

  • The Mental Health Demonstration Grant Program provides $11 million to 27 state agencies and school districts to train and deploy school-based mental health service providers in schools. “It is intended to expand the pipeline of high-quality, trained professionals to address shortages of mental health services in high-need schools and to provide supports that encompass social and emotional learning, mental wellness, resilience, and positive connections between students and adults,” the Education Department says.
  • Project Prevent offers $11.3 million to 15 school districts to increase their capacity to assist schools in communities with pervasive violence, enabling them to “identify, assess, and serve students exposed to pervasive violence, provide mental health services for related trauma or anxiety, support conflict resolution programs, and implement other school-based violence prevention strategies”.
  • The School Climate Transformation Grant Program provides $42.4 million to 69 school districts to develop or improve school climate. It focuses on supporting communities that may benefit from implementing a multi-tiered system of support and need extra support
  • The Trauma Recovery Demonstration Grant Program sends over $6.7 million to Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Nevada to support low-income families who have experienced trauma and provide them with “trauma-specific mental health services.’

Some experts say the recommendations and funding indicates a shift away from “hardening” schools with armed guards and strict security measures and a move toward developing support for students who might be a security risk because of a traumatic event or a lack of resources and support at home.

It also signals a move to increase the number of school counselors, which has already been undertaken in some states which are trying to lower their counselor-to-student ratios. About $60 million has been provided in the Arizona school budget to hire more school counselors and school resource officers, and the new School Counseling Improvement Act in Arkansas requires schools to have a comprehensive counseling program and cut the administrative tasks of counselors.

Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, the director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), has reported that to support school safety efforts funding had potentially been available from the Every Child Succeeds Act through Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV, Part A)

While the funding is aimed at student’s support, one key element in any school safety effort should be the school safety plan, according to George Roberts, who is a community superintendent for Baltimore County Public Schools and speaks on school safety issues. Roberts was principal at Perry Hall, MD, High School when a student was shot by a classmate and a staff member was nearly wounded as he tried to intercede. The shooter was eventually subdued by a resource officer.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be prepared,” he says “You really can never fully prepare. It is never going to happen where or how or when you expect, but it is important to have comprehensive plans, and study and practice it. Then it becomes instinctual.”

Roberts suggests four basic plans are usually needed: handling a regular evacuation like the traditional fire drill, moving students further away from building or to an alternative location, establishing an “alert” status to keep students from leaving the school and announcing a lockdown with doors and windows closed and covered.

Written by Jim Paterson, Education World Contributing Writer

Jim Paterson is a writer, contributing to a variety of national publications, most recently specializing in education. During a break from writing for a period, he was the head of a school counseling department. (

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