The US Department of Education has awarded a total of $5,094,793 to St Louis, Baltimore, and Chicago school districts to promote student resilience following significant trauma related to episodes of civil unrest in their communities.
The new discretionary grant program—Promoting Student Resilience (PSR)—provides funding to school districts or a consortia of school districts to establish school-based mental-health, counseling and behavioral programs for students who have experienced trauma because of demonstrations of mass protest/civil unrest. Funding helps school districts create, strengthen, and maintain safe and supportive learning environments.
“Violence tears at the fabric of a school community, and the long-term effects can be devastating,” said US Secretary of Education John B King Jr. “The Department of Education is committed to addressing the mental health and social support needs of students who are impacted, directly or indirectly, by traumatic events in their communities.”
St Louis received an award totaling $1,445,884; Baltimore received $2,374,000; and Chicago received $1,274,909. The grants support system-wide approaches linking schools, mental health service providers, and community-based organizations to address the comprehensive educational, behavioral, and mental health needs of youth.
“Students who live in communities where there has been significant civil unrest can be traumatized by these events,” said James Cole Jr, general counsel, as he announced St Louis’s grant this afternoon in St Louis during a roundtable with students, St Louis Promise Zone stakeholders, and local leaders.
“In many communities, particularly those that are historically underserved, funding is often limited or unavailable to address the mental and emotional needs of those affected. These grants will help address those needs and get students the help they deserve,” he said.
St Louis Public Schools will use its funding to implement trauma-focused programs in 18 district elementary schools; six north St Louis County schools located in the St Louis Promise Zone, which encompasses Ferguson, Missouri, and surrounding communities; and six nonpublic schools in the city of St Louis. The project will be coordinated in partnership with Project CATALYST, a grant received under the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) ReCAST funding initiative, and with Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St Louis, a major provider of trauma-informed services in the St Louis region.
The goal of St Louis’s program is to strengthen and expand the district’s capacity to address the mental health and social support needs of children who are victims of traumatic events, thus enhancing their ability to adapt to stress and adversity; increase the number of students who are identified, screened, and referred to school-based and community-based mental health services; and assist other school districts and communities with strengthening their capacity to address the behavioral and mental health needs of students and families, with a focus on trauma-informed services.
Ultimately the grants aim to strengthen schools’ capacity to understand the effects of trauma and ‘toxic stress’ on student behavior, especially in areas like Ferguson, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“There are underlying circumstances within many children’s lives throughout St. Louis city and county that are inherently traumatic,” the paper quoted Jerry Dunn, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St Louis, as saying. “It could be trauma from living in poverty. It could be from crime. It could be child abuse and neglect. And that has far-reaching implications in their social and emotional behaviors as well as their learning behaviors.”
Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) will collaborate with the University of Maryland, the Baltimore City Health Department, Johns Hopkins University, Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore, and community-based organizations to expand its capacity to effectively address the behavioral and mental health needs of students affected by trauma. The district will employ full-time mental health professionals at 13 focus schools most affected by trauma related to recent civil unrest.
In addition, City Schools will be able to provide professional development to school-based staff, community-based providers, parents and students on how to screen for and respond to civil unrest-related and other trauma, and implement strategies appropriate for school-based mitigation of trauma; provide improved school-based trauma-informed supports, services and interventions; evaluate the effectiveness of strategies implemented under the grant; and increase engagement with school communities, faith-based communities, service providers and other stakeholders.
A riot occurred in Baltimore in April 2015 after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, who died from a neck injury in a police van. Hundreds of people were arrested during the riots, and six police officers were charged, some say hurriedly and inappropriately, in the incident. Some of the trials ended in acquittal, and charges against the remaining officers were dropped.
Board of Education—City of Chicago will implement the Healing Trauma Together (HTT) program, expanding district capacity to meet behavioral and mental health needs of students attending 10 high schools in communities facing violence and civil unrest. This program helps students recover from traumatic exposure to violence and civil unrest. It also improves mental health in high-need communities and creates safe and supportive learning environments for student learning and engagement.
HTT will work with the Chicago Department of Public Health grant received under the SAMHSA ReCAST program to provide professional development to support personnel in adopting trauma-informed practices and improving school climates. Staff will strengthen identification and referral processes; provide evidence-based trauma-focused interventions for students who have experienced chronic stress or complex trauma; link local community mental health agencies to students and families in need of more intensive services; and provide parental education on the impact of exposure to trauma and strategies to support youths.
Protests erupted in Chicago in November after police video footage showed the October 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black teenager, by a white police officer. The city’s police superintendent was dismissed, and the Justice Department opened an investigation.