NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texas schools are missing out on millions in federal dollars to improve student safety.
After the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Congress set aside $1 billion over ten years for school security. Millions have already been invested.
Yet, two years after the passage of the STOP School Violence Act, only four North Texas districts have received any of the money – Lake Worth ISD ($500,000), Weatherford ISD ($78,323), Duncanville ISD ($375,000), and Lovejoy ISD ($500,000 in 2018).
Less than 5% of North Texas school districts even applied
A CBS 11 I-Team investigation discovered when the federal government offered schools free money, most North Texas school districts did not apply.
According the U.S. Department of Justice, last year only five North Texas districts applied for these federal grants – Lake Worth ISD, Weatherford ISD, Duncanville ISD, Eagle Mountain – Saginaw ISD (not awarded grant) and Waxahachie ISD (not awarded grant).
While some districts cited the usage of Texas grants to help pay for security improvements or the belief they were not eligible as reasons for not applying, many districts told the I-Team they were simply unaware the federal grants existed.
“We did not know about these grants,” said a Farris ISD school official. “Now that we know about them we will be applying.”
A Fort Worth ISD spokesperson said, “We subscribe to several grant listings with the federal government as well as sit on the local Mental Health Grant Team and these opportunities were not shared.”
Keller ISD, Cattleberry ISD and Royse City ISD were also among the district who told the I-Team they did not apply for the federal grants because were not aware of them.
Security expert: Feds failed to inform schools about the money
The U.S. Department of Justice is in charge of managing and awarding the $1 billion Congress authorized to enhance school security.
Typically, local schools look towards the U.S. Department of Education for federal grant opportunities – not the Department of Justice.
However, the Department of Justice said it worked with the Department of Education to notify the educational community, including the Texas Education Agency.
The department also communicated information about the grants through direct emails to its Listserve members, web postings and social media.
However, school security expert Ken Trump said it’s not the fault of local schools for not knowing about these grants.
“The STOP school violence grants are some of the most elusive grants that I’ve ever seen in working 30 years in school safety,” Trump said. “The vast majority of school districts across the country have no idea that the grants exist.”
Ken Trump said he believes the federal government has done a terrible job at informing local schools through traditional education channels about the money.
“Parents should be knocking at the door of their local congress person asking why do our school districts not know about this? It’s certainly not the fault of the school districts,” he said.
Lake Worth ISD uses $500,000 for mental health training
Like many school districts across the Texas, Lake Worth ISD has spent millions of dollars to better protect its students.
In recent years the district’s safety enhancements included upgraded security cameras at the high school and a secure access system on all the doors.
Unlike most districts, Lake Worth ISD applied for and received money to improve safety from the federal government’s school violence prevention program.
Lake Worth ISD received $500,000 for a new extensive violence prevention program where everyone on staff will be trained on how to better deal with students with mental health issues.
“There has been a tremendous change in what we have to do to protect our students and finding the funding to do it can be challenging,” said Superintendent Dr. Rose Mary Neshyba.
Dr. Neshyba said her district would not have been able to afford the new training without the federal dollars.
With another round of millions of dollars becoming available, several more North Texas school districts told the I-Team this time they will be apply for these federal dollars because now they know.