East Valley school district to receive grant for school safety programs

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- The Department of Justice is awarding more than 200 jurisdictions across the country with over $70 million to support school safety, and that includes $1.3 million in Arizona .

Prescott Valley, the City of Maricopa, as well as several school districts in the state will receive funding from the grants. This is a big help for schools trying to implement social and emotional learning programs. One district, the Kyrene School District, will receive $230,000 over five years to assist with programs they've been trying to implement for some time now.

"We tend to focus at times on the academics for students, but we are really seeing the need for us to look beyond that, and also take care of the social and emotional needs of children," said Dr. Sandra Laine, Kyrene's Director of Exceptional Student Services.

In just one year, there has been at least 19 teen suicides in the East Valley alone. Dr. Laine says it's been a problem in schools within the district.

"Our neighborhoods within Kyrene have also been hit hard by that," said Dr. Laine. "We've had a middle school student complete suicide, as well as students in one of our feeder high schools."

The $230,000 grant will help with the expansion and implementation of several social and emotional programs in the Kyrene School District. Those services includes a web-based program called "Second Step", and a suicide prevention program called "Signs of Suicide".

"The Signs of Suicide is an important program," said Dr. Laine. "It's evidence-based, but it also promotes with students this concept that's called ACT. To acknowledge, to care, and to tell a trusting adult, so they can help and try to do something to provide support to that student that's struggling."

The grant will also allow middle and elementary school in the district to start up an assessment program called "Panorama".

"Panarama is a social skills assessment for students, so we can determine the skills that students are struggling with, and the skills that students have as strengths, and we can target our curriculum to those areas of need," said Dr. Laine.

The grant will also allow counselors and psychologists to train school teachers to recognize if a student is struggling. Dr. Laine says these programs will begin immediately in the middle schools.