Schools in 41 states and the District of Columbia have begun to receive more than $121 million in brand-new federal funds. And that’s just one element in a massive national effort to protect students and educators from violence and wrongdoing in the nation’s schools. The drive, as it shapes up today, encompasses federal programs, state projects, and private initiatives.

In the newest of several major initiatives, the first round of funding has just concluded, but there’s more money where that came from, and you can gain an important advantage by examining what kinds of programs snagged the early grants. Safe Schools Today will alert you the moment additional application details are available, or you can check the programs’ web sites, cited throughout this article.

COPS grants

On Aug. 17, President Clinton announced $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 were 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 specific area of concern. 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 on their way 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. Read Safe Schools Today or watch the COPS web site for an announcement of next year’s grants: _prog/sbp/default.htm

Safe Schools, Healthy Students grants

On Sept. 11, the president announced an additional $106 million in grants to 54 communities to help safeguard students from aggressive and violent behavior as well as drug and alcohol use.

Under the Safe Schools, Healthy Students Initiative, school districts will receive support to help link community-based services and prevention activities into a single community-wide approach to violence prevention and healthy child development.

A joint effort involving the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Justice (DOJ), and Health and Human Services (HHS), the program aims to help communities design and implement comprehensive educational, mental health, social service, law enforcement, and juvenile justice services for youth. The grants announced this fall will fund the first year of three-year projects.

Research shows that a far-reaching, community-wide and school-wide approach is the best strategy to promote healthy child development and reduce school violence and drug abuse, said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley: “Our children’s health, safety, and future success depend on partnerships that pool the strengths of schools, families, and community organizations and offer a broad-based preventive approach to violence and drug use.”

School districts were asked to submit comprehensive plans generated under a formal partnership with law enforcement officials and local mental health authorities, in collaboration with families, juvenile justice officials, and community-based organizations.

To be considered, the plans were required to address the following six elements:

• a safe school environment;

• alcohol and other drug and violence prevention and early intervention programs;

• school and community mental health preventive and treatment intervention services;

• early childhood social and emotional development programs;

• school reform; and

• safe school policies.

The initiative is funded in fiscal year 1999 with $60 million from ED’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, $25 million from HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), $15 million from DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and an additional $6 million from DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to fund the hiring of 53 police or school resource officers in schools.

Urban school districts were eligible for up to $3 million, suburban districts were eligible for up to $2 million, and rural and tribal districts were eligible for up to $1 million. Applications–judged for their strength, comprehensiveness, viability, and likelihood to succeed–were peer reviewed by an interdepartmental team that made recommendations to the cabinet departments.

St. Louis Public Schools, for example, received $1.5 million for a project that will pair the district with the City of St. Louis Mental Health Board of Trustees and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The project will include early childhood development programs coordinated through a case management system; training courses in substance abuse and violence prevention; student-led mediation services at middle and high schools; and security measures such as surveillance cameras and window guards in selected schools.

Descriptions of the funded projects are available on the various department web sites, and look for an announcement of next year’s applications in the spring: grants.html

State programs

Several states, meanwhile, 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. Applications were due Oct. 29. For questions, contact Jean Scott and 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.

For details on either program, see the Safe Schools and Violence Prevention Office web site:

• Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge has announced 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. 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 applications were due Oct. 1. Award recipients will be announced later this fall. For details, see the state’s Center for Safe Schools web site:

• 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 using 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 improve school safety, 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 health or safety projects. For example, 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 safety projects. 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, because you’ll be eligible for funding through programs that target law enforcement agencies as well (like the COPS program).

• Contact your local community foundations and other education-friendly institutions. With school safety a hot-button issue, local foundations are more likely than ever to open their wallets for programs aimed at keeping students safe.