The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded Poplar Elementary School District #9 in rural Poplar, Montana, a $50,000 Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following the suicide death of five students at Poplar Middle School last school year. In addition to these five tragedies, the school also documented 20 attempted suicides by the middle school children during the same school year. The situation in the community has completely overwhelmed district staff.
"When unfortunate events disrupt the lives of students and schools, it's vital that the learning process continue. Project SERV provides districts and institutions of higher learning with resources to help respond in a timely manner," Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, says.
Project SERV grants provide funding to school districts and institutions of higher learning that have experienced a traumatic event and need resources to respond to the event and re-establish a safe learning environment. This fiscal year, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded more than $1.4 million to 13 grantees, including the most recent grant to the Poplar Elementary School District #9.
Poplar Elementary School District, located in the rural, northeastern corner of Montana, is the seat of Fort Peck Reservation Tribal government. The school district serves approximately 565 students in grades pre-K through 8. Poplar Middle School is the only middle school in the district and serves 140 students. The area is classified as "frontier," as there are fewer than three people per square mile. There are less than 1,000 people residing in Poplar, of which about 90 percent are Native American. The unemployment rate is approximately 85 percent.
"Indian country communities like Poplar often lack resources while struggling with tremendous and disproportionate challenges," said Jennings, who serves on the Department's Indian Education Task Force. "Federal resources such as Project SERV have an enormous impact in such under-resourced communities, and we are proud to be able to help."
Since FY 2001, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded more than $27.7 million in Project SERV funding. To view a list of grantees and award amounts, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/dvppserv/index.html.