U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $350,000 to Help Baltimore City Public Schools Recover Following a Student Homicide

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U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $350,000 to Help Baltimore City Public Schools Recover Following a Student Homicide

September 2, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling $351,718. The grant will be used to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following the stabbing death of a student at Renaissance Academy, a high school on the west side of Baltimore that serves a majority of African-American males—many of whom are from vulnerable backgrounds.

"Such tragic, senseless acts of violence disrupt the schools where our students learn and the communities where they live," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "The Department of Education is committed to helping Renaissance Academy's students, teachers and families recover and to re-establish safe learning environments where all children can focus on getting a great education—free from fear."

Project SERV provides funding for local educational agencies and institutions of higher education that have experienced a significant violent or traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and re-establish a safe environment conducive to learning. There are two types of Project SERV awards—Immediate Services and Extended Services. Immediate Services grants, one of which was awarded to City Schools, provide emergency, short-term assistance to affected school districts or colleges and universities. Extended Services grants assist school districts and colleges and universities in carrying out the long-term recovery efforts that may be needed following a significant, traumatic event. To date, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded approximately $44 million to 139 grantees, including City Schools, since the grants program began in 2001.

"The educators and leaders at the Renaissance Academy have worked together with families and community leaders to help students cope with the tragic violence of the last year," said Nate Loewentheil, who leads the White House Taskforce for Baltimore and helps coordinate federal support for the city. "This Department of Education grant will give new School CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises and the team at Renaissance special resources to provide students with counseling services and support as they embark on the school year ahead."

In November 2015, a Renaissance Academy student was stabbed by another student; the victim died in December. The incident occurred during the school day and was witnessed by other students and staff. The death devastated the student population at the school, which is located in an area of the city that has experienced other incidents of violence and conflict. As a result, there is heightened concern for the mental health of students and teachers, and the attendance and academic progress of the student population have suffered. Faculty and staff are continually looking for ways to support their students while dealing with concerns for the safety and security of the entire school community. City Schools will use the grant to support Renaissance Academy above and beyond the resources generally required for all of its schools.

"To succeed academically, students need to know not only that schools are safe and secure, but that there are people and resources at their schools to support them in very difficult times," said Santelises, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. "This is true for all students, but at Renaissance Academy, those needs are particularly acute. The Project SERV grant will be invaluable as Renaissance Academy and its partner, the University of Maryland School of Social Work, work this year to support and empower our young people."

The Project SERV grant will provide targeted supports to students to help them feel safe at school. Renaissance Academy will contract with mentors who will provide support to students. In addition, the school will hire a dedicated door monitor for one of its entrances, as well as a staff person to make home visits to discuss attendance with chronic absent students who are too afraid or too angry to come to school because of violence.

Renaissance Academy also will implement several training and development programs for faculty and staff. These programs will cover such topics as restorative practices, trauma informed care and mental health.

This is the second Project SERV grant awarded to Baltimore City. The first grant, totaling nearly $293,000, was awarded earlier this year. The grant was used to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following protests and civil unrest after Freddie Gray, a young African-American man who was arrested in April 2015, died of a severe spinal injury while being transported in a police van. A week later, following his death, Baltimore City erupted in rioting.

To view a list of Project SERV grantees and award amounts, or to learn more about the program, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/dvppserv/index.html.