Three area school district received more than $100,000 from the second round of the Department of Justice (DOJ) School Safety Grant program, which focuses on advanced initiatives to bolster student mental health, according to Attorney General Brad Schimel.

Schimel announced last week the DOJ was awarded $2,200,000 by the United States Department of Justice to support school safety efforts in Wisconsin for mental health training, technology reporting and violence threat assessments. 

Schimel also announced 263 schools and school districts will receive $21,281,933 through the School Safety Grant Program.

Locally, the Northland Pines School District received $71,718, Three Lakes School District got $28,268 and Phelps School District received $9,998. 

Northland Pines Assistant Administrator Scott Foster said district officials appreciate the opportunity to improve training, planning and additional safety reĀ­sources with this second safety grant. 

“The focus on identifying and supporting students that need social and emotional support through staff training is the right direction for improved student and staff safety,” said Foster. “Safety is priority one in the district and this grant gives us more opportunity to improve. The grant also is providing continued collaboration in school safety between our districts which is also helpful.”

At Three Lakes, high school Principal Gene Welhoefer said the district was pleased to be awarded funds for the second round of the School Safety Grant. 

“We worked collaboratively with local law enforcement to identify additional areas to enhance the safety of our students and staff,” said Welhoefer. “These funds will allow us to add to the overall safety measures of the school district, while utilizing the state funds that were made available earlier this year.”

Phelps School District Administrator Delnice Hill said Phelps will use the second round of money granted for the required staff training. 

“One training is in the area of mental health and the other is for threat assessment,” said Hill. 

Other items to be purchased are a variety of first aid kits and a visitor screening system in the Phelps School office, according to Hill.

“When visitors come to our school they will give their driver’s license to school office staff. The license will be scanned by the screening system,” said Hill. “If the background check of the individual is acceptable, the screening system will print out an identification tag to be issued for that visit only. We hope to have all of the new safety features in place in the very near future.”



The grant program

Schimel said the first federal award by the USDOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) provides $1 million to supplement state funding to increase the number of schools that will be provided evidence-based trainings in adolescent mental health.

The second grant provides Wisconsin DOJ with $1 million to supplement state funding to increase the number of schools that will be provided training on school violence threat assessment teams, standard response protocols, school safety intervention teams, and standard reunification methods. 

“With the addition of these federal dollars, we gain yet another tool to help our students, teachers, staff, and law enforcement prevent violent acts before they occur and improve the safety of our schools,” said Schimel.

The grant will also assist in the development, training, and data analysis of standardized violence risk assessment tools. This grant will also support developing reunification software that will help reunite children with guardians after an incident, and assist schools in submitting the schools safety plans, interactive floor plans, and scheduling safety drills. Last, this grant and a second grant from BJA in the amount of $200,000 will be used to create an anonymous tip line application.

As of Sept. 28, 2018, all grants have been reviewed by Office of School Safety (OSS) staff, and all schools with grants requiring modifications have been contacted about needed modifications. More grants will be awarded to schools that applied for the second round of grant funding in the near future, as soon as schools respond with modifications. 

OSS grant specialists are working quickly to help schools and school districts correct any deficient applications, and award the grants as soon as possible. OSS anticipates that it will complete all awards in October, subject to applicants providing additional information or correcting errors in their grant application materials. Once a grant application is reviewed and complete, it will be awarded immediately.

The second round of grant funding, utilizing approximately $48 million, will build upon the baseline mental health and physical security improvements made in the first round of grant funding by offering advanced training for teachers on mental health issues. Funds are also available to create local teams of educators, counselors, and law enforcement (called school safety intervention teams, or “SSIT”) that will assess threats and identify students in need of support. 

Additional physical security upgrades will also be funded. DOJ will announce plans for an estimated $3 million set aside fund in the future, which represents the balance of the $100 million appropriation.



Qualifying for grants

To qualify for the second-round funds, applicants must agree to send 10% of full-time teachers and counselors to a DOJ-approved, 12-hour Adolescent Mental Health training by Aug. 31, 2020, and schools may use grant funds to pay expenses incurred (tuition, travel, lodging, meals, substitute teacher pay, etc.). Schools applying must also establish an SSIT based on a model set by the U.S. Secret Service, which will engage in behavior monitoring, threat assessments, and intervention.

Under this second round, grant funding is awarded on a per-student basis, according to student enrollment as reported to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Each school or school district that applies will receive an estimated $55.21 per child, but no awardee will receive less than $10,000 nor receive more than $2.5 million, in order to ensure all applicants receive sufficient funding to make meaningful physical security improvements.

In March 2018, the Wisconsin State Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker passed and signed 2017 Wisconsin 143 into law, establishing the OSS and providing $100 million for school safety. A total of 723 schools and school districts, 97% of public schools and approximately 40% of private schools statewide, applied for the first round of funds, and all schools that completed the application process have now received an award. 

For more information on DOJ’s Office of School Safety, visit: doj.state.wi.us/office-school-safety/office-school-safety.