Advice & Resources for Comprehensive School Safety Initiative Grants

Collaboration and alliance between researchers, social workers, educators, police departments and courts are vital for the national Comprehensive School Safety Initiative.


Editor’s Note: The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has canceled both Comprehensive School Safety Initiative and Research and Evaluation of Technologies to Improve School Safety solicitations. With the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, the funding planned for these solicitations is no longer available for research and evaluation. Instead, it will be used for other purposes under the Stop School Violence Act of 2018. NIJ will post updates on school safety funding.

I refuse to let frequent school shootings become the “new norm.” The fiery actions of a few defies logic, common sense and most of all, human decency. The first time I recollect seeing a mass school shooting on television was the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999. As I write this article, I realize school violence has been present my entire lifetime. My mother-in-law was assigned and taught a 14-year-old boy in St. Albans, West Virginia, in his house in 1978. The 14-year-old was on pre-trial house arrest, awaiting trial for shooting and killing another teenage boy in the junior high school hallway.

How can you help your school and community develop safety initiatives to avoid these tragic events?

One program available to enhance safety for your school and community is the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (CSSI) grant, which is due May 2, 2018. The targeted applicants are many and varied: local education agencies, state education agencies, local governments, Indian tribes, non-profit and for-profit organizations and institutions of higher education (public and private) may apply.

CSSI “funds rigorous research to produce practical knowledge that can improve the safety of students and schools.” Collaboration and alliance between researchers, social workers, educators, police departments and courts are vital and mandatory to be awarded the CSSI. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) areas of interest for awarding CSSI are:

  • School Shootings
  • School Resource Officers
  • School Discipline and School Coordination with the Criminal Justice System
  • Disinvestment in Ineffective School Safety Programs
  • Bullying and Cyberbullying Intervention and Prevention
  • School Safety in Non-Classroom Settings
  • Implementation and Translation of School Safety Research.

Remember that the CSSI grant is not a vehicle for purchasing equipment or supplies, unless they are required for project research, evaluation, analysis, development or demonstration.

For safety is not a gadget, but a state of mind.”

Use safety expert Eleanor Everet’s words as inspiration to fund your CSSI project and the following resources to help you start your application under the following five funding categories.

Category 1: Developing Novel and Innovative School Safety Programs, Practices, and Strategies

A novel example is the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security (OOHS), which developed and implemented “Innovative Practice, Oklahoma’s School Safety Initiative.” The OOHS offers six security courses; in particular, “the two-day school security training program includes courses on security assessments, emergency planning and preparedness, school bus security and active shooters in schools.” Also included are partnerships with mental health professionals, guidance counselors and school psychologists; together, they “identify warning signs in youth that may pose a risk to their school.”

Category 2: Demonstration, Evaluation, and Validation Tests for School Safety

In lay terms, Category 2 is a threat assessment that is implemented, tested and proven. A resource for these three matters is the Threat Assessment for School Administrators & Crisis Teams by the National Association of School Psychologists.

Category 3: Expanding the Use of Effective Interventions Through Scaling-Up

The adage, “reinvent the wheel” comes to mind for scaling-up existing plans. Why research, develop, write and implement a new school safety plan when you can scale-up the existing plan? Per CSSI, “the purpose of Category 3 is to expand the implementation of interventions that have demonstrated positive results and have a strong evidence base.”

Category 4: Research on School Safety

CSSI is “particularly interested in understudied practices and strategies related to school safety.” One such research study is Shootings in U.S. Schools are Linked to Increased Unemployment from Northwestern University. The study “indicates that increases in gun violence in our schools can result from disappointment and despair during periods of increased unemployment, when getting an education does not necessarily lead to finding work.”

Category 5: Translation and Dissemination of Comprehensive School Safety Initiative Findings

One strategy CSSI is looking for is “hosting training and technical assistance webinars on school safety topics.” A benchmark for hosting school safety webinars is Supportive School Discipline Webinar Series from the National Center for Safe Supportive Learning Environments.

Judy Riffle has authored several grant advice columns for

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