Updated: Mar 17
We are closing in on two solid years of the Covid-19 pandemic. The media has dedicated much of its broadcast time to running dashboards, case counts, vaccine pushes, and basic hysteria. Schools have focused on virus mitigation through masking, contact tracing, virtual learning, enhanced cleaning, social distancing and more. Officials, parents, students, and communities have done their best, many working through crippling fear that children would be exposed to Covid-19 and terrible outcomes would prevail.
Two years later and we are still living with the pandemic. The world as a whole is beginning to understand that Covid-19 will be with us now, at least seasonally, for the foreseeable future and focus is starting to ebb towards how we live with the virus rather than extinguish it. The Covid Coma is lifting, but what has been forgotten in the process?
$3.9 trillion in funding has been disbursed for loans and other federal programs for which state-level data is readily available to combat Covid-19. $3.9 TRILLION.
Give that a moment to settle in.
In the meantime, violence in our communities exploded right along with the positive Covid tests and this same violence continues to spill into our schools. It will take years for thought-leaders to parse out what went wrong with the pandemic response and how it affected us societally as a whole. Political divisions will delay that process as people continue to plant themselves firmly into ideology over rational thinking. These delays in logical evaluations will delay solutions, and the violence will continue while we quarterback actions in echo chambers of thought.
Of the 73 million children in the U.S., fewer than 700 (under 18 years of age) have died of COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, from January 1, 2020 through December 24, 2021 -- 605 children aged 0-11 have been killed by gun violence. This is not an attempt to minimize deaths from any one cause or to inflate the meaning of deaths from another cause....this is simply for perspective. Violence in our communities has been on a steady rise in this country for many years. Societally we saw an immediate need to invest in mitigation strategies for Covid-19, when will we recognize the immediate need to invest in mitigation strategies for violence in our schools?
We Have a Duty of Care
Our children are living in a world wrapped in fear. We've handicapped them. They are afraid to be without a mask, afraid to play with their friends, afraid to go to school. What are we doing to the next generation of leaders? Will they grow to lead with fear, or can we help them to grow into pioneers of solutions by showing them the way?
We must model for children that, in the face of obstacles, the only way forward is to evaluate, communicate, and execute solutions. We must show them that obstacles are not overcome in hard stances, but rather by coordinated, multi-faceted solutions that consider many sides of the situation, not just a one-size-fits-all blanket of rules.
School safety is an ecosystem of knowledge.
Politicians do not have the singular answer.
School boards do not have the singular answer.
School administrators do not have the singular answer.
Law enforcement officials do not have the singular answer.
Mental health providers do not have the singular answer.
Technology experts do not have the singular answer.
Community members do not have the singular answer.
Collectively, we all must bring our knowledge together to create these solutions because we all have pieces of the puzzle (answers) that join together to create the big picture for school safety.
This is what the NASCPC helps school districts to accomplish. Each community, district, and school is different. Understanding the dynamics of each location includes evaluating:
Size of the location.
Specific risk factors of each location.
Resources available (human and financial)
Programs in place or those lacking.
Technology in place or technology needed
Communication strategies and gaps
School safety ecosystems are always holistic and benefit from a chorus of voices and opinions. Coordinating these voices is key to developing a school safety plan that is effective and successful.
On December 23, 2021, the Department of Justice announced nearly $126 million in funding to advance school safety under the STOP School Violence Act. The grants, awarded by the Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), will help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts, provide training to school personnel and students, and implement evidence-based threat assessments.
The Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (the STOP School Violence Act) gives the Justice Department the authority to provide awards directly to states, units of local government, Indian Tribes and public agencies (such as school districts and law enforcement agencies) to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs. It also provides grants to ensure a positive school climate by helping students and teachers recognize, respond quickly to and help prevent acts of violence.
The 78 BJA annual awards, totaling almost $74 million, are intended to support training and education for school personnel and students on preventing violence against others and themselves, including anti-bullying training and specialized training for school officials to respond to mental health crises. Funds also help develop and implement multidisciplinary threat assessment or intervention teams and design technology solutions such as anonymous reporting systems, hotlines and websites.
The COPS School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) provides up to 75% of the funding for school safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools. The 153 SVPP awards, totaling almost $52 million, are statutorily obligated to be used for coordination with law enforcement; training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence; locks, lighting and other deterrent measures; technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency; and other measures that provide a significant improvement in security.
This is an amazing step in the right direction. However, the funding still falls remarkably short of the needs in our communities. $3.9 Trillion vs. $125 Million. Its easy to acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done.
The full list of SVPP awards can be found here.
A list of BJA awards, as they are made, can be found here.
We have spent the better part of the past two years dedicated to Covid-19 mitigation, and in many cases, let overall school safety fall by the wayside. We have dedicated trillions of dollars to Covid-19 mitigation inside of 24 months, yet we've heard over and over in the past several years that there are little to no funds to dedicate to mitigating violence in our schools. It becomes a rather irresponsible stance to throw unlimited amounts of cash to one new safety issue, but not dedicate more substantial resources to a safety issue that has been plaguing us for decades.
If your school needs help navigating the complex world of school safety, we are here to help. Please CONTACT US today for a free consultation.