Gov. Reynolds Announces Federal Funding for School Safety, Mental Health Initiative

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that Iowa has received federal funding to help schools prevent and respond to acts of violence. The effort also will focus on helping students who face mental health challenges.

“I’m pleased this grant will help Iowa continue to improve safety and mental health outreach in our schools,” Gov. Reynolds said. “This enhances other efforts, including new legislation to provide suicide-prevention training for educators and more flexibility to use funding for at-risk students. We are committed to expanding services for children who need help both inside and outside schools.”

The initiative will bring together Iowa schools and state and local agencies through a nearly $494,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program. Thirty-three other states received funding through the program.

“This important work will help Iowa build on its comprehensive and holistic approach to school safety, which focuses on both physical safety and mental health,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said.

Iowa’s project has three objectives:

  • Train teachers and school employees to respond to threats of violence and to prevent violence in schools. Training content will align with school emergency plans.
  • Train school staff, area education agency staff, and community members to respond to students who may be struggling with mental health or addiction.
  • Educate students on preventing violence against themselves and others.

For the third objective, more than 2,500 student leaders will be trained to guide discussions and activities on harassment, bullying and violence in classrooms or small groups. Schools also will receive materials on suicide, mental health and violence prevention.

The Iowa Department of Education will oversee the grant program in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa Center for Violence Prevention, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Forty-two schools will be chosen to participate based on geographic location and size.

“The Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa looks forward to partnering with the Iowa Department of Education to provide systemic, evidenced-based school violence prevention training and programming to Iowa’s school districts and respective communities,” Alan Heisterkamp, director of UNI’s Center for Violence Prevention, said. “Engaging leadership at multiple levels within a school environment is essential to decreasing and eliminating incidents of harm and abuse.”