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Virginia receives $869,508 in federal funding to support threat assessment in schools

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that $869,508 has been awarded to the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety (VCSCS), housed within the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

The grant award comes from the Department of Justice, under the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program. The program is designed to improve school security by providing students and teachers with the tools they need to recognize, respond quickly to, and prevent acts of violence.

In 2013, Virginia became the first state in the nation to require all public school divisions to establish and operate threat assessment teams in order to enhance school safety. Teams must include experts in counseling, instruction, school administration, and law enforcement. Together, the threat assessment team works to assess and intervene with individuals whose behavior poses a threat to the safety of themselves, school staff, or students.

“Virginia is a national leader in implementing threat assessment policies at our public elementary, middle, and high schools and within institutions of higher education,” said Governor Northam. “This funding will help Virginia continue to support our youth and ensure the safety and welfare of students and staff in our schools, building upon the excellent foundation we have here in the Commonwealth.”

Virginia is one of eight states to receive over $650,000 from this grant. The funding will assist school divisions and localities in developing and sustaining threat assessment teams, which help identify threats and intervene before any danger materializes.

“Threat assessment teams are a vital tool that allow school divisions to identify and assess behaviors early so that they can intervene before a crisis occurs,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “It also enables schools to connect individuals with help and resources if they are in need.”

In Virginia, threat assessment teams function similarly to crisis intervention teams in that they are expected to make referrals to community service boards or health care providers for evaluation or treatment. The Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety currently provides training on behavioral threat assessment and the implementation and operation of behavioral threat assessment teams.

“The threat assessment process used in our schools, as well as on college and university campuses, can be summarized by Virginia CARES. The acronym stands for: Caring and Connection, Assessment, Recognition, Engagement, and Support,”said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Our commitment to providing our students with a safe and healthy learning environment starts with forming a climate where students and staff are empowered to support members of their community that present concerning behaviors.”

With this three-year grant, the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety will expand training opportunities, establish a cadre of threat assessment trainers, offer consultation on threat assessment team implementation, and improve the efficacy and efficiency of threat assessment data collection through the development of a case management tool.

“This grant will be carried out by the talented and passionate state employees at the Center and the Department of Education who strive daily to provide as many resources, training, and tools that schools need to effectively intervene,” said DCJS Director Shannon Dion. “The Center serves as a model for other school safety centers across the country and this funding will create critical resources that will undoubtedly help Virginians and individuals nationwide.”

The Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety serves as a resource and training center for information and research about national and statewide safety efforts and initiatives in K-12 schools and institutes of higher education. Additional information and resources created by the Center are available on the DCJS website.

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