Department of Justice Announces Grants for Districts and State Education Agencies

The Department of Justice has announced $47 million in grants to districts and state education agencies to fund proposals that implement a school safety intervention and then study the success of that intervention to add to the body of research on this important issue.  Applicants may focus on any combination of elementary, middle or high schools, a single type of school, or a specific range or grades.  DOJ anticipates awarding grants that range between $500,000 and $5 million and the deadline to apply is July 10th.   The project period for grants will be up to 3 years.

This grant program–which is funded as part of the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative from the FY 2014 Omnibus spending bill–is focused on funding school safety focused personnel, programs and activities.  Grantees will be required to partner with a highly-qualified research organization to then evaluate the effectiveness of the new personnel, program or activity.  For example, a grantee may determine that their school district needs additional school resource officers.  They may use these grant funds to hire these school resource officers and then conduct an evaluation on their effectiveness in reducing school violence.  Between 1/4 and 1/3 of grant funds should be spent on research and evaluation and the remainder should go towards the proposed intervention itself.

Under this program, potential applicants have significant leeway to propose projects that are relevant to their needs and circumstances under the umbrella topic of school safety.  That being said, DOJ is particularly interested in projects that look at how mental health services, public safety and preparedness (such as through the use of school resource officers) and school climate and culture programs effect school safety.  Whatever the proposal, applicants (and their research evaluation partner) will be in charge of determining the desired outcomes for their proposed intervention and their metrics for success.  For example, applicants may want to study if a particular intervention reduces problems such as bullying and aggressive behaviors all the way up to whether it prevents violent crimes.  The Department acknowledges the question of “what is school safety” is an elusive one and can range from obvious safety measures (locks on doors or controlled access to the building) to culture changes (feelings of safety, reducing bullying, evenly applied disciplinary policies and conflict resolution procedures, staff training, or the availability of mental health services).

When designing a potential proposal, DOJ urges applicants to focus on a “limited range” of interventions to produce the best research results.  Additionally, DOJ warns applicants to make sure that their proposal does not result in any unintended consequences such as discrimination against any particular student group, unevenly applied disciplinary consequences or continuing the school to prison pipeline.