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DOJ: More than $70M to support school safety and $64M to improve state criminal record systems

The Free Press WV

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell joined the Department of Justice in announcing more than $70 million in grant funding to bolster school security, educate and train students and faculty, and support law enforcement officers and first responders who arrive on the scene of a school violence incident, including $500,000 for the West Virginia Department of Education.

These grants are in addition to the funding to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), announced by Attorney General Sessions last week, to expand and update their curriculum to better support training programs. These grants combined will better protect students, teachers, faculty, and first responders across the United States. Additionally, the Department is awarding more than $64 million to state agencies to improve the completeness, quality, and accessibility of the nation’s criminal record systems, which will help law enforcement and increase the effectiveness of background checks.

“President Trump and his administration will ensure the safety of every American school,“ Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Earlier this year he signed into law the STOP School Violence Act, which provides grant funding to develop anonymous school threat reporting systems, to implement school building security measures, and to train students, school personnel, and law enforcement on how to prevent school violence. Today I am announcing $70 million in these grants to hundreds of cities and states across America. These grants will go a long way toward giving young people and their families both safety and peace of mind.”

“Children are our most valuable resource. This funding couldn’t go to a more worthy cause. I look forward to seeing our schools improve in security and mental health services in the coming year, thanks, in part, to this funding,” said Powell.

The Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) together are making more than 220 awards to jurisdictions across the country to help make schools more secure. The awards, granted through three funding streams, will provide new technology for reporting systems and other threat deterrent measures and create school safety training and education programs for school administrators, staff, students, and first responders. This includes the support for existing crisis intervention teams and the creation of new ones.

BJA’s STOP School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program will provide 68 awards valued at more than $19 million. This funding supports training to create and operate threat assessment and crisis intervention teams and to develop technology for local or regional anonymous reporting systems. This technology may be in the form of a mobile phone application, hotline, or website.

The STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program, also managed by BJA, will provide training and education on preventing violence and effectively responding to related mental health crises. This program will fund 85 awards at nearly $28 million. The WV Department of Education funding falls under this category.

The COPS Office School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) will provide nearly $25 million to 91 jurisdictions for school safety measures including coordination with law enforcement, training for law enforcement to prevent student violence against others and self, target hardening measures, and technology for expedited notification of law enforcement during an emergency.

The grants are authorized by the STOP School Violence Act, which are intended to improve school security by helping students and teachers reduce exposure to risks, prevent acts of violence, and quickly recognize and respond to violent attacks.

The Department also announced that it has awarded more than $64 million to state agencies to improve the completeness, quality, and accessibility of the nation’s criminal record systems. These grants are administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of OJP. Approximately $43 million in funding will be administered through the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), and nearly $21 million will be awarded under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Act Record Improvement Program.  These grant programs help states automate and upgrade records accessed by the firearms background check system.  This year, at the direction of the Attorney General, the Department prioritized funding for projects that improve accessibility of criminal history records, domestic violence convictions, and information on persons who are prohibited from possessing firearms for mental-health related reasons.

The Department is also investing over $1 million in research to better understand the factors behind mass shooting incidents. The grant awards, made by the Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ), part of OJP, support scientific investigations that will examine factors that contribute to mass violence, identify any patterns in mass shootings, analyze psychological and social life histories of mass shooters and community-level predictors of mass violence, and will examine firearm purchasing patterns of known mass shooters in order to create a risk prediction tool. 

For addition information on today’s grant announcements, visit www.bja.gov or www.cops.usdoj.gov.

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