Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $2,000,000)
For many communities and schools in Montana (MT), access to law enforcement personnel, mental health services, and related training are limited or non-existent due to the vast size and low population density of the state. Prevalent social factors in Montana, isolation, social disorganization, downward social mobility, and rural residency correlate highly with increased suicide rates. The remoteness of the state makes it challenging and unequitable for schools and other stakeholders to access the resources, necessary supports and related collaboration opportunities needed to prevent and respond to school violence.
Without viable options to access evidence-based materials, supports, training, and opportunities to collaborate with other educators and key stakeholders from around the state, Montana educators are not likely to engage in collaborative partnerships with local law enforcement, which is needed to implement processes that prevent school violence and promote a positive school climate. Identifying and addressing school violence issues in MT requires an increase in accessibility to law enforcement, mental health services, anonymous reporting, increased opportunities and support for related training and implementation.
The University of Montana (UM) Safe Schools Center (MSSC) has been working with educators from around the state on school safety initiatives since 1999 and is uniquely and intentionally positioned to address school violence prevention and safety in MT school communities. To ensure that safety education can be equitably accessed by stakeholders around the state and that school violence is significantly reduced, MSSC requires additional staff and resources to expand Tip Line services state-wide, implement Behavioral Threat Assessment (BTA) Intervention Teams in schools, expand tele-mental health services, provide virtual training for school personnel, students, and law enforcement, and provide equitable access to evidence based school violence prevention supports and resources for all stakeholders in the state regardless of size, location, or socioeconomic standing.