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Covington, Erlanger-Elsmere Schools Awarded $5 Million Grant to Prevent Violence


Two Northern Kentucky school districts were awarded a $4.95 million grant to create and support an effort to identify, assess, and serve students exposed to violence.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the funds to Covington Independent Public Schools and Erlanger-Elsmere Schools, which collaborated to win the grant through the agency's Project Prevent program.

The money will be shared by the two districts over the next five years. 

“This grant will provide great benefits for our students. I am so proud of the work of Covington Independent Public Schools and Erlanger-Elsmere Schools,” said Alvin Garrison, superintendent of Covington Independent Public Schools, in a news release. “The collaborative effort of the districts made this opportunity possible.” 

In a joint announcement, leaders from the two districts said that the funds will allow for streamlined efforts and resources needed to tackle issues related to violence.

“Through Northern Kentucky Violence Prevention Pyramid Project, two school districts, working together, will change their students’ and our communities’ approaches to violence,” said Amy Razor, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services. “By supporting youth mental health, providing trauma informed care, and initiating a multitude of helpful programs in both the communities and schools, these districts will impact the ways children learn, work, and live.” 

Covington and Erlanger-Elsmere school districts will collaborate to implement the grant as the Northern Kentucky Violence Prevention Pyramid Project, which will focus on academic, behavioral, physiological, safety, social-emotional, and mental health support. The majority of students in each school district – those at the “base” of the pyramid – will receive universal support, with intensifying intervention for those students more at risk, or at the pyramid’s top, a news release said. 

The grant allows for the creation of an overarching council and district-level multidisciplinary teams to implement the pyramid – working toward first identifying concerns that may lead to violence and then tailoring the ways each district addresses it through nationally-recognized best practices. The council and teams will include teachers, administrators, school resource officers, a restorative justice coordinator, school psychologist and school counselor/board certified behavior analyst, and a wide variety of community partners. 

“Through this grant we will be focusing on the needs of the whole student through academic learning, social- emotional learning and our collective impact on addressing mental health and well-being along with physical health and well-being,” said Dr. Kathy Burkhardt, superintendent of Erlanger-Elsmere Schools, in a news release. “It will allow us to continue to increase our school district's capacity to provide learning environments that are positive and enriching for all students as we model and teach our students about conflict resolution and restorative justice practices. We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with our students, families and communities to focus on strategies to positively engage and enrich student learning in ways that promote empowerment and success.” 

On the side of violence prevention, each district will implement the Virginia Threat Assessment Model, an approach that emphasizes early attention to problems such as bullying, teasing, and other forms of student conflict before they escalate into violent behavior. Districts will also work to identify students who are at risk for externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors through universal student screenings. 

To serve students who have been exposed to violence or who may be prone to violence themselves, both districts will deepen their commitment to trauma-informed care, recognizing the role exposure to trauma can play and shifting from a “what’s wrong with you” to a “what’s happened to you” approach. A practical application will include the institution of “Handle with Care,” a program of coordination between local law enforcement and school-level personnel to better support students affected by police activity and trauma- related events such as domestic violence situations, drug raids, overdoses, and more. While the school will simply receive a “Handle with Care” alert from local police along with a child’s name, it enables teachers and administrators to provide an increased level of support to students who may be experiencing inordinate difficulties. 

Another significant component of the grant is a focus on restorative justice, an increasingly popular alternative to traditional approaches to school discipline. Students will learn about making amends through restorative justice practices. Both school districts will receive training on a nationally recognized whole school restorative justice model. 

“We are thrilled to be able to collaborate with Erlanger-Elsmere Schools on this important work,” said Janice Wilkerson, Ph.D., assistant superintendent of Covington Independent Public Schools. “The Northern Kentucky Violence Prevention Pyramid Project will provide resources to enhance our student behavior support processes including training for school staff members on trauma informed practices and advanced interventions for students experiencing significant emotional or behavioral challenges. We are especially excited to work with the Kentucky Center for Restorative Justice and Community Restorative Justice - Covington to bring formal restorative justice practices into our schools and the local communities.” 

The grant is made possible through the collaboration of the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services (NKCES). Since September 2010, the NKCES Grants Consortium has brought more than $50 million in federal, state, local, foundation and corporate funding into the Northern Kentucky economy in support of students in participating school districts, a news release said. 

“I am always impressed by the dedication of our public schools to serving the needs of every child, no matter the circumstances,” said Vicki Dansberry, director of the Grants Consortium. “This project will go a long way to building a successful future for many students who face the most serious challenges, building a supportive culture in the schools that will help children and youth orient themselves toward success.” 

-Staff report

Photo via Erlanger-Elsmere Schools

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