Small number of school safety grants make it to Indian Country

The Trump administration announced more than $70 million in school safety grants though few of the funds are going to Indian Country.

The Salt River Schools were the only Indian Country recipient of grants from the STOP School Violence Act Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program. The schools, located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, received $95,000 to create and operate threat assessment and crisis intervention teams and to develop technology for anonymous reporting systems, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

As for the STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program, which funds training and education on preventing violence and responding to mental health crises, none of the awards went to Indian Country. The closest was $149,772 for the Durant Independent School in Oklahoma, where about 35 percent of the student body is Native, largely from the Choctaw Nation.

Indian Country fared better in the COPS School Violence Prevention Program. The Native Village of Skagway in Alaska received $23,438 and the Cherokee Nation secured $473,201 to help their schools in Oklahoma coordinate with law enforcement, provide training for law enforcement to prevent student violence and address other safety needs.

"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 press release announcing the awards.

The STOP School Violence Act became law earlier this year as part of an omnibus appropriations measure that funded the federal government. Congress ensured that tribes and tribal organizations were eligible for grants to prevent school violence.

The law, though, does not mandate a tribal set-aside. In total, it authorized $75 million in grants for fiscal year 2018.

"More than $19 million will go to supporting threat assessment and crisis reporting systems," Sessions said during a speech in Ohio on Tuesday. "About $28 million will go to providing training and education on how to prevent violence and responding to mental health crises. Nearly $25 million will go to training school resource officers."

The law was passed amid growing demands to make schools, including those on and near reservations, safer. Since 2005, there have been three major reported incidents that have claimed nearly a dozen young lives in and around Indian Country.

"Children in our school system and their educators should not be burdened with fearing for their safety while attending school," President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation said after a shooting at a school near the New Mexico portion of the reservation claimed two lives in December 2017. Begaye endorsed the STOP School Violence Act before it became law in March.

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