The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded Chittenden East Supervisory Union in Chittenden County, Vermont, a $46,484 Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following the suicide of a 15-year-old male high school student. His death follows four other youth suicides in the district within the past year.
Project SERV grants provide funding to school districts and institutions of higher education that have experienced a traumatic event and need resources to respond to the after effects and re-establish a safe learning environment. The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded more than $27 million to 88 grantees, including Chittenden East Supervisory Union, since the grants program began in 2001.
“When unfortunate events disrupt the lives of students and schools, it’s vital that the learning process continue,” said Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. “Project SERV provides districts and institutions of higher learning with resources to help respond in a timely manner.”
The Chittenden East Supervisory Union is located in eastern Chittenden County, Vermont, and serves the towns of Bolton, Huntington, Jericho, Richmond and Underhill. It is a rural community without malls, shopping centers, or health clubs. The combined population of the towns is slightly less than 15,000, and approximately one third of the population is below the age of 25.
On Tuesday morning, Jan. 17, 2011, a group of female students told a counselor that a 15-year-old male student had been talking about suicide. The counselor immediately contacted the assistant principal, who elicited the help of several staff members to search for the student. The student was eventually found dead in a bathroom with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Since the student’s death, the school has provided extensive services to students. The incident has taken an emotional and psychological toll on the adults in the school as well. Additional services are needed to return the school community to a pre-incident level of functioning. To help address these needs, Chittenden East Supervisory Union has requested Project SERV Immediate Services funding to help restore the learning environment through the provision of additional support services for students, staff and parents. To deal with the increase in student mental health needs, the district has proposed hiring additional temporary staff to provide counseling services for students. The district also has requested funding to provide a peer support program, group counseling and tutoring services for students. To help better prepare teachers and parents to recognize the signs of suicide, the district has proposed professional development opportunities for staff and parent information sessions.
To view a list of grantees and award amounts, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/dvppserv/index.html.