Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,000,000)
Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) is the 6th largest school system in the country, serving nearly 261,000 students in 334 schools during the 2020-2021 school year alone.1 Operating in South Florida, it has a diverse student population with Blacks (40.5%) and Hispanics (36.1%) being disproportionately represented. For the 2019-2020 school year, BCPS had the highest incidents of fighting and the 2nd highest injury-related violent incidents in the state.2 Research shows that these incidents disproportionally affect middle school students. According to the most recent Broward County Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), middle schoolers had higher incidences of bullying, physical fighting, and carrying weapons to school compared to high schoolers.3Although violence in BCPS has been on a rise, it is only a symptom of the issue. The problem of violence in BCCS schools is the lack of mental health resources available to students and teachers to address the issues of crime, poverty, and substance abuse prevalent in their homes and communities.
Under Project BRAVE (Building Resiliency through Anti-Violence Education), GA will improve school security by providing students and teachers with the tools they need to recognize, respond quickly to, and help prevent acts of violence. Due to the nature and scope of the issue of school violence in BCPS, GA’s program design will take on a multifaceted approach with the aim of (i) equipping teachers, school resource officers and parents with the knowledge and tools needed to identify and respond to potential risks, including risks posed as a result of a student’s mental health crisis, (ii) educating students on how to prevent violence against themselves and others, and (iii) providing adequate support to students to help them manage and heal from the challenges they face at home and in their communities, using a trauma-focused approach. As part of this design, GA will employ evidence-based and innovative programming to teach students violence prevention strategies in Title I middle and high schools located in high-crime, high- poverty communities. This strategy will include gamification principles to reinforce positive behaviors in students and virtual learning opportunities.
Gang Alternative, Inc. is a faith and community-based non-profit organization founded in 2005 with the mission to build character that lasts in children and families through positive alternatives to crime, violence, dependency, and delinquency. GA does this by offering a holistic approach to its academic, physical, social, economic, and spiritual development for youth.