Campus Safety

University of Missouri Receives $2M School Safety Grant

The University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., recently announced that it has received a $2-million grant from the Department of Justice to help K–12 schools around the state identify and avoid threats to student safety, according to a news release. The project will partner the university with as many as 26 rural school districts in the state and will connect to schools’ Wi-Fi to keep tabs on online threats. Full implementation is expected by fall 2023, the news release reports.

“If a potential threat is captured through videos, text messages, emails, or social media posts, the school would be alerted so potential assessments and interventions can happen to avoid anyone harming themselves or others,” said Keith Herman, Curators’ Distinguished Professor at the MU College of Education and Human Development. “The other key component of this is creating threat assessment teams, which could include school principals, teachers, school resource officers, school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and law enforcement individuals, as we will be training them on how to respond and intervene.”

Suicide threats will be handled using the Columbia Protocol, an evidence-based approach that gives threat assessment teams the means to contact individuals and discuss risk levels and interventions for avoiding self-harm. Threats to others will be handled with an approach from the University of Virginia, giving threat assessment teams step-by-step processes for how to respond.

“Rural schools tend to have less resources in these areas, and we have heard from many rural Missouri school districts that they currently don’t have these threat assessment teams and systematic procedures in place. So, we want to help implement these resources to support their schools and communities,” Herman said. “Obviously, there has been an increased spotlight on recent school shootings, and we also know many students have been struggling throughout the pandemic with mental health concerns. So hopefully the combination of the technology and the trainings will make schools safer, and those who work in the schools will feel more confident in responding and intervening when threats arise.”

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at [email protected]