Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $2,000,000)
Targeted school violence is preventable. In four out of five school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it. Most plotters had experienced bullying or had mental health issues, frequently involving depression and suicide ideation. Most students who take their own lives exhibit one or more warning signs. It is critical that we teach students and adults how to identify these signs and act upon the information to prevent violence. California has the highest number of school shootings in the nation. Between 1970 and 2021, 164 school shootings occurred in California. Between 2011-19, the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), a school climate survey of the California Department of Education (CDE), reported a 50% increase of 7th graders experienced cyberbullying (19% to 27%); and a marked increase (25% to 30%) of 7th graders reported chronic sadness, a marker for depression. Preliminary results of the 2020-21 CHKS reported an almost 10% increase in chronic sadness reported by 11th graders compared to pre-COVID state averages (36% to 47%). To address these issues, the CDE proposes to expand Project Cal-STOP to a) train school staff and students to prevent school violence by delivering the Know the Signs programs in partnership with Sandy Hook Promise; and b) train school staff to respond to related mental health crises by expanding CDE’s Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) and other mental health trainings; and c) empower students to bring change to school using student-led clubs to promote student connectedness, increase mental health awareness, reduce stigma, and create a positive school culture. Project Cal-STOP will target high need schools, using a school equity index, that can demonstrate a commitment to address school violence and student mental health within the district’s multi-tiered systems of support framework, and/or align with the district initiatives that are trauma-informed or focused on expanding school-based mental health services. 120 schools in California, with an estimated total student population of 50,000 will be trained. YMHFA and other mental health trainings will be provided to 5,000 school staff. In addition, students will be trained and empowered through 120 on-campus student-led clubs. Project Cal-STOP activities will be sustained through six Know the Signs training of trainer sessions, on-going supports for the SAVE Promise Club, 30 new YMHFA instructors, NAMI California and its local affiliates, and on-going mental health and school violence prevention resources provided by the CDE.