The Department of Justice has announced the first grant winners under a federal school safety program signed into law by President Donald Trump earlier this year.
The Justice Department awarded $70 million Tuesday under the STOP School Violence Act to school districts, law enforcement agencies, and municipalities to improve threat assessments and reporting, crisis interventions, training, and mental health services.
The grants are broken down into three categories: the Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program (68 awards for $19 million), the Prevention and Mental Health Training Program (85 awards for $28 million), and the COPS Office School Violence Prevention Program (91 awards for $25 million).
“These grants will go a long way toward giving young people and their families both safety and peace of mind,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
The STOP School Violence Act was Congress’ response to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead and has spurred a national debate about school safety and gun control. The bill receive bipartisan support and was also backed by groups like Sandy Hook Promise, a group that works to address violence in schools through training. But the STOP Act did not address gun control or other difficult political topics surrounding student safety. In the fiscal 2018 federal spending deal, Congress shifted funding from the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative to pay for the STOP Act grants.
Florida’s Broward County, the site of the Parkland murders, received federal grants in all three categories from the STOP Act totalling more than $1.2 million—the county school board’s share of the grants from the mental health and threat assessment grants is about $879,000. Several state departments of education including those for California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Montana also won grants.
The Santa Fe district in Texas, the site of another school shooting earlier this year in which 10 people were murdered, also received a $200,000 grant under the Prevention and Mental Health Training Program.
The STOP ACT explicitly says that the grants cannot be used to purchase firearms for educators. That’s become a controversial topic in Washington recently because of debates over how Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos should and would handle the question of whether money under the main federal education law could be used to buy guns. Ultimately, DeVos said she would not encourage, discourage, or ban money from being used this way under the Every Student Succeeds Act.