Safer Communities Act funding overview
Enacted following the tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX that killed 19 students and two teachers in May 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides more than $2 billion to address the complex issue of gun violence in the nation’s schools and communities by providing funding to strengthen background checks, implement mental health services and anti-violence programs, and to enhance school safety measures.
Of the total $300 million in grant funding available during this fiscal year, $40 million will supplement the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) STOP School Violence Program to expand school violence prevention and security measures to states, local governments and tribal organizations, including for developing and operating school threat assessment and intervention.
An additional $20 million will support the School Violence Prevention Program managed by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Importantly, grant applicants including local school districts, governments and law enforcement agencies interested in funding for technologies such as cameras, security systems, locks or fencing are eligible to pursue grants through the COPS program.
Safer Communities Act
SCHOOL SAFETY FUNDING:
STOP SCHOOL VIOLENCE
COPS SCHOOL VIOLENCE
CARES Act or U.S. Dept of Education (ESSER) Grants
(September 2022 Deadline)
COVID Relief & American Rescue Plan (ARP)
December 2020 & March 2021
Est. $150 billion remaining
COVID-19 relief funding overview
Some communities are also considering tapping into unused COVID-19 rescue and relief money to update and strengthen facilities. Unlike other grant programs requiring a lengthy review application process, these federal dollars have already been allocated to states and can be used and reported later depending upon how the funds are designated. Proposals must be submitted to the state education agency for approval and include spending plans, mitigation strategies and evidence-based interventions among other things.
Furthermore, pending legislation through the Safe Schools Act (Senate Bill 4369) is gaining support, including from the Security Industry Association (SIA) to officially sanction the use of any remaining COVID-19 ESSER funds to be used for school security measures.
Additionally, the proposed Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2022 (H.R. 8009) would fully authorize schools to use Title IV, Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) block grant funding through the Department of Education for school safety infrastructure improvements.
Individual states including Texas, Iowa, Indiana and Virginia—among others—are layering funding on top of designated federal dollars to help schools assess vulnerabilities and improve the overall security and safety of their buildings. Public agencies, including K-12 school districts, can more quickly and easily access state funding by working with cooperative purchasing organizations. The collective buying power of unified procurement cooperatives can mean added value and savings through best practices that help ensure contracts are in place, budgeted appropriately, negotiated and vetted through trusted supplier partners, like ADT Commercial.
How can the funds be used?
The STOP School Violence Act of 2018, passed following the deadly attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL with funding supplemented by the new legislation, provides grants to qualifying agencies to improve school security. This includes developing and operating threat assessment and intervention teams that may involve coordination with law enforcement and school personnel. Any other measure may be supported if determined by the BJA Director to provide significant improvement in training, threat assessments or reporting and violence prevention.
Grants through the COPS programs must first include a comprehensive school safety risk assessment and a multidisciplinary approach to campus, building and classroom security that engages school staff, teachers, administrators and mental health professionals.
The COPS School Safety Working Group along with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Report include considering a tiered approach depending upon the size and complexity of the school campus and also advocate the use of:
- Threat and risk assessments
- Access control systems
- Video surveillance
While there are not strict guidelines on how the COVID-19 relief funds may be applied and accounting for the fact that each state is expected to set their own review process, general parameters dictate that local education agencies must reserve at least 20% to address learning loss as a result of the pandemic. This can include the implementation of evidence-based interventions such as summer learning, extended day or comprehensive after school programs, as well as any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
School facilities may also use a portion of the funding to initiate repairs and improvements to enable and enhance school operations to reduce the risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards and to support student health needs. See Sec. 2001.e.1 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 20213.
Safer Communities Act funding: Solutions to consider
While there is no one size fits all solution, vulnerabilities often exist when there are voids in basic security policies and strategies, including periodic safety assessments, Code Red of other active assailant response procedures training and frequent drills to help ensure all school staff and students know what to do in an emergency. After basic harm mitigation concepts are implemented, school districts can consider more advanced security measures that focus on prevention and those involving technology innovations.
Mass notification systems
These systems allow you to communicate any perceived risks with distinctive sounds and voice instructions to help alert your staff and students to incidents or threats and outline exactly what to do. Voice evacuation paging can help you to provide even more information, including during Code Red or other active assailant response procedures.
Physical security of networks to enhance cybersecurity
Security-only networks are separate from your school’s main network and are specifically designed to host security systems at your locations to help protect sensitive student information. Your ISP circuit can be provided by a trusted integrator and centrally managed by qualified systems analysts. Network monitoring can include change requests for approved network devices, as well as switching and security, ISP monitoring, reporting, and auditing services for Meraki devices.
Access control and video management solutions
Powerful access control solutions and robust video management systems can play a significant role in helping to keep staff and students safe. These valuable combinations can help you effectively manage and understand:
- Building occupancy levels and muster status
- Staff, student and visitor tracking
- Visitor management, including managing single ingress and egress points
- Social distance monitoring
- Overall facility security
- Gunshot location sensors tied to video systems
Movement tracking and mapping access control systems can help manage where individuals are within a building and while on campus, tracking their movements throughout the day. Coupled with mapping tools and specialized software, you can:
- Receive alerts when occupancy of an area within the building exceeds capacity such as auditoriums, classrooms or cafeterias
- Provide tracking data to identify an infected individual’s movement throughout the campus or their exposure to others
- Receive comprehensive reports
- Provide visual documentation of events when tied to video systems
COVID-19 relief funding: Solutions to consider
Technologies identified as providing direct benefits in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 are also effective in helping improve the overall operations and safety of school facilities. Depending upon the individual needs of each school district and facility, these solutions may or may not fall under the scope of COVID-19 relief funding.
Real-time visitor management to help provide insight into who is on your campus and their current location, further supported by integrating the software into access control and video systems.
Access control solutions with real-time alerts and extensive reporting to restrict access to sensitive areas of the building to help slow or prevent intruders and provide contact tracing using robust reporting functions integrated with video systems.
Update fire safety technologies and emergency response plans for popular communications tools and helping to manage flow through common pathways. Bring unused wings of a school into compliance with fire and safety codes to reopen them and create more space for students to maintain appropriate social distancing.
Additional resources available to interpret the legislation
Navigating the different funding sources available to help enhance safety and security at our nation’s schools can be daunting so these additional resources are available to help define various opportunities, requirements and deadlines.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) provides grant administration and justice policy development to support state, local and tribal organizations to reduce violent crime and create safer communities.
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office administers the School Violence Prevention Program.
The Security Industry Association maintains and communicates resources, applicable technologies and guidance on a variety of issues and funding related to community safety and security.
To help guide spending, FutureEd has published FAQs laying out the rules for states to review local plans for spending ARP money and other relief aid that will go to school districts.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education has a website dedicated to tracking, collecting and disseminating date related to funding managed by the agency.