Print this Article

Palo Alto Unified Among Recipients

Feds Awards Grants to Help School Districts Recover from Student Suicides, School Shooting

April 8, 2010

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools this week awarded three new Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grants, totaling more than $137,000, to school districts in California, New Mexico and Alabama to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following a series of student suicides and a middle school shooting. 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 $1.1 million to 10 grantees, including the most recent grants to Palo Alto Unified School District, in Palo Alto, Calif.; the Mescalero Apache School District in Mescalero, N.M.; and the Madison City School District in Madison, Ala.

“When unfortunate events disrupt the lives of children 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 for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, said.

Palo Alto Unified School District

Within the last nine months, the university-oriented Palo Alto community has been tragically impacted by four youth suicides.  Even though the district has provided counseling and other services to its students, it still faces numerous challenges in responding to students' needs and requests for mental health services.  Thus, the district requested and received a $50,000 Project SERV grant.  To address the increase in student mental health needs, the district has proposed using their funds to hire a person to screen and coordinate local psychiatrists and therapists who have volunteered their services.  In addition, funding will be used, among other things, for grief counseling, a peer support program, targeted depression screening for students, suicide awareness training for teachers, and the development of a website for parents, students and school staff that addresses suicide intervention.

Mescalero Apache School District

Mescalero Apache School District in Mescalero, N.M., was awarded a $48,040 Project SERV grant to restore its learning environment following a series of student suicides.  In 2009, the rate of suicide in this small, impoverished, rural district on the Mescalero Apache Reservation increased dramatically.  Ongoing difficulties in coping with the recent suicides have resulted in a growing number of students in need of mental health services.  To help address these needs, the district has requested a grant to provide additional support services for students, staff and parents.  It also is proposing to hire a part-time mental health provider, as well as provide specialized staff training on suicide assessment and intervention specific to the Native American culture.

Madison City School District

The Madison City School District in Madison, Ala., received a $39,273 Project SERV grant to help its students receive counseling and other mental health services following a February school shooting by a middle-school student that resulted in the death of a classmate. Following the homicide, the city hosted a community meeting to assist students and families in dealing with this tragedy.  A week later in a completely separate incident, a professor at a nearby university in Huntsville shot and killed three co-workers, which also emotionally affected students.  

To help restore the learning environment at the middle school, the district is considering a series of measures to assist staff and students.  The district is proposing to hire a full-time school resource officer for the remainder of the school year and a trained therapist to provide ongoing counseling to the students most impacted by the shooting.  In addition, the district plans to hire substitute teachers, which will allow full-time teachers also emotionally impacted by the tragedies to attend individual and group counseling sessions.

Since FY 2001, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools has awarded more than $27.4 million in Project SERV funding. To view a list of grantees and award amounts, visit

Source:  U.S. Department of Education