State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), in partnership with the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security and its subsidiary, the Oklahoma School Security Institute (OSSI), has received three federal grants of more than $1.7 million to strengthen safety, security and mental health initiatives in public schools statewide.
“For students to learn, they must first feel safe,” said Hofmeister. “These grants will support violence prevention efforts in our schools. By working to keep schools safe, we are giving kids the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential in a positive learning environment.”
“The Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, through our Oklahoma School Security Institute, have for many years worked closely to make schools safe and secure for our youth,” said Kim Carter, director of the institute. “These grants will allow both of our agencies to strengthen our partnership and to provide more resources than ever before to accomplish that mission.”
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded OSDE $996,855 over the next three years to create and train a state Crisis Team. The team will consist of two new state-level positions – a licensed school counselor and a school psychologist plus a Strike Team of 20 existing OSDE employees. The Crisis Team will be deployed during school emergencies and provide guidance to schools on identifying students who may need additional behavioral health supports or mental health interventions.
In a second grant, OSDE received $498,915 to hire a full-time anti-bullying program specialist to implement school-based prevention and intervention strategies and support Oklahoma parents whose children have been victims of bullying. The grant will also fund a regional representative to assist school districts in completing a risk and vulnerability assessment. This specialist will be housed at OSSI.
The DOJ also awarded OSDE with $250,000 over the next three years to implement a mobile phone app that will allow for real-time anonymous reporting of violence and threats. This app will work in conjunction with the Oklahoma Fusion Center’s telephone tip line, which has received a low volume of calls since 2014 and none from students. The new phone app will allow for anonymous, two-way communication, images and video to be sent 24 hours a day.
“In order for students to flourish, they must be able to focus on their studies without the threat of aggression or violence,” said Hofmeister. “If students don’t feel comfortable going to school, they may put their academic future at risk. We must do everything in our power to ensure student safety and are grateful for the opportunities these grants provide.”