In the aftermath of the April 20 shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in which two students killed themselves and 13 others, funding for school security has reached an all-time high.

Two new federal programs will dole out more than $100 million this year for projects to improve school safety. And several states, including Pennsylvania and California, have launched their own school safety grant programs.

The bottom line for schools: If you’re looking for funding to help you pay for surveillance cameras, metal detectors, incident profiling software, or other technology-related systems to help keep your schools safe, there are plenty of places to turn.

COPS grants

On Aug. 17, President Clinton announced the awarding of $15 million in Justice Department Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants for local law enforcement agencies across the country to form innovative partnerships with schools or community organizations to target specific problems of crime and violence in or around schools.

A total of 247 grants will be awarded to 226 communities in 41 states and the District of Columbia this year. COPS School-Based Partnerships grants emphasize the use of community policing and problem-solving methods to address the causes of school-related crime and disorder problems, such as drug dealing and use, assaults, truancy, vandalism, and other student safety issues.

School districts are encouraged to partner with local law enforcement agencies to apply for funding of a project that focuses on or solves one area of concern in particular. The grants will fund resources such as computer technology; crime analysis personnel; the cost of conducting student surveys and victim/offender interviews; and training and technical assistance in collaborative problem-solving.

For example, the South Euclid, Ohio, school district teamed up with local police to win a COPS grant to address the problem of bullying, threats, and intimidation of students to and from Memorial Junior High School and Greenville Upper Elementary School. Part of the funding will pay for computer systems to track the behavior and educational problems of students to see if there’s a correlation that can be used to prevent future incidents.

Application materials for the 1999 competition were released in early March, and the deadline for applications was April 30. Watch the COPS web site (see page 8 for the address) for an announcement of next year’s grants.

Safe Schools grants

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, meanwhile, launched a new grant program this year called Safe Schools, Healthy Students. Based on an initiative announced last fall by President Clinton, the program will award a total of $300 million over the next three years to provide safer learning environments for children.

Successful applicants are awarded up to $3 million a year for three years to link new and existing services and activities into a comprehensive, community-wide approach to violence prevention and healthy child development.

Applicants must illustrate a formal partnership between a school district, a law enforcement agency, and a local health authority. Activities that may be funded through this grant include the development of after-school programs and the purchase of security technologies.

The deadline for 1999 applications was June 1, and winners are expected to be announced shortly. For more information, visit the program’s web site.

State programs

Several states have launched their own grant programs and initiatives to promote school safety:

  • The California legislature recently approved $100 million in School Safety Block Grants, to be distributed to the state’s school districts serving students in grades 8-12. The grants can be used for purposes such as providing personnel trained in conflict resolution; providing on-campus communication devices, such as emergency phone systems and two-way radios; establishing staff training programs; and establishing cooperative arrangements with law enforcement agencies.

    Funds will be allocated based on enrollment, with a minimum allocation of $5,000 per school site or $10,000 per school district, whichever is greater. Application materials, including certification forms and school safety-related resources, will be sent to local education agencies this month. For questions, contact Jean Scott or Linda Davis-Alldritt in the Safe Schools and Violence Prevention Office of the California Department of Education at (916) 323-2183.

    California also awarded nearly $9 million to 27 school districts statewide for its School Community Policing Partnership Program, jointly administered by the state departments of justice and education, to be used to fight school violence. The grants were awarded to the districts throughout the state that demonstrated the most effective plans for improving school safety. Each of the grant recipients is eligible to receive up to $325,000 under the program.

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced last month that 54 districts will receive nearly $1 million in state safe-schools grants to develop locally-designed crime, violence, and substance-abuse prevention programs. Another 25 school districts will receive nearly $124,000 to continue existing programs.

    Gov. Ridge also called on Pennsylvania schools to apply for an additional $20 million in new state safe-schools grants available this year. School districts can apply for the new funds to further strengthen their safe schools and violence-prevention programs. The new funds can be used for conflict-resolution programs; peer-helpers programs; violence-prevention curricula; school safety planning; risk assessments; alternative-education programs; and the purchase of security-related technology.

    Grant application guidelines are available now at the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. Award recipients will be announced later this fall.

  • In Kentucky, legislators last year established the Center for School Safety (CSS) and also called for the appropriation of $9 million during fiscal year 2000 to support a school safety grant process. Applications were accepted through May 15, 1999, for the funding of community-based programs; intensive academic intervention programs; programs utilizing school resource officers; training programs for certified and classified staff, students, parents, and community members; and other violence prevention programs.

  • In Missouri, a grant program was established in 1997 to provide preventive and intervention activities; alternative education programs (including online learning programs); and instruction for violent, abusive, or chronically disruptive students. Applications for this year’s School Safety grants were accepted through June 1.

  • Schools in Michigan can download a free evaluation copy of RiskWatch risk analysis and assessment software, which helps schools evaluate their school safety and security controls.

Other alternatives

If you’re looking for funding to beef up security, but none of the programs listed above are applicable, try these other alternatives:

  • Contact your state department of education. The person in charge of state grant programs for K-12 education might be able to tell you which state programs, if any, can be used to fund security equipment or projects. In some cases, you might be able to use federal Title IV funding for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, which is administered at the state level, for such projects.

  • Form partnerships with local law enforcement officers. This is something you should do even before you seek out grant money for school security. Often, local law enforcement officers will volunteer to conduct a school safety needs assessment, saving you the expense of hiring a security consultant. By teaming up with law enforcement, you’ll also expand your funding possibilities, since you’ll be eligible for funding through programs that target law enforcement agencies as well (like the COPS program).

  • Form partnerships with security companies. The Harriet Beecher Stowe School, a Chicago, Ill., elementary school with 1,500 students in grades K-8, has installed a fingerprint-checking system to give students secure access to the school’s two buildings. Located in a high-crime area, the school had relied on a key system to ensure that entrances between the buildings were properly secured. Teachers were issued keys and used them as they moved from building to building. But “if one teacher lost a key, we had to collect all 100 and have the locks changed, a process that was expensive, frustrating, and time consuming,” said Charles Kyle, the school’s principal.

    One of the faculty’s spouses worked at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, where a biometric fingerprinting system from Identix Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., controls access to doors so individuals can’t sneak onto planes or put items in cargo bins. The school hired SecurCom Inc., a Twin Lakes, Wis., systems integrator that works closely with Identix, to replace its key system with the fingerprint access, which became operational in May.

    The Harriet Beecher Stowe School was able to put its system in for free because the vendor was looking for a school to model the technology. “We think a lot of schools will be interested in biometric security system and see the Harriet Beecher Stowe work as an investment in our future,” said Harry Wilkinson, president of SecurCom. The company planned to meet with the Chicago School Board during the summer to talk about expanding use of the biometric security system to other city schools.

  • Contact your local community foundations and other education-friendly institutions. They say charity begins at home–and with school safety a hot-button issue, local foundations are more likely than ever to open their purse strings for programs aimed at keeping students safe.

  • Use your eRate savings and reimbursement checks to fund security measures. Now that eRate money has finally started to flow–and schools are getting reimbursement checks to cover bills already paid in full during the first two years of the program–the extra savings might be a good source to tap for added security expenditures. Remember that eRate savings and reimbursement checks don’t have to be spent on eRate-eligible services only.