Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $999,988)
The Gustine Unified School District (GUSD) serves approximately 10,000 residents and 1,800 students in rural Central California. GUSD students are predominantly low-income (76.9%) and Latinx/Hispanic (86%)
GUSD experiences high rates of violence on campus. As of May 2022, GUSD reported more than 200 fights on campus in this school year-- more than double the pre-COVID rates. The district has had more than 21% of all violent incidents occurring in Merced County public schools, despite only 3% of the County’s student population. Gang activity is growing and police have responded to several reports of youth banishing handguns. GUSD’s suspension rate hovers between two and three times the average for Merced County and the statewide average for California.
GUSD will engage in five strategies targeted to students, school staff/teachers, and community members to decrease school violence, divert students from justice involvement, and increase staff and community ability to recognize and intervene in mental health crises and secure treatment. These strategies include: (1) Developing and implementing programming for at-risk students (reintegration support for students returning from expulsions or suspensions, and El Joven Noble, a SAMHSA-designated evidence-based program that offers a 12-week course for high-need students, including group counseling sessions); (2) Programming for all students (student assemblies and teen Mental Health First Aid training for all 11th graders); (3) Professional development for teachers and staff (a SAMHSA and What Works Clearinghouse designated evidence-based practice called Youth Mental Health First Aid; (4) Parent involvement (hire a Promotora to reach out to parents to help break down the stigma associated with mental health treatment and explain the benefits of the MAPS+ program); and a (5) Law Enforcement Task Force (mental health clinicians, teachers leading El Joven Noble trainings, principals of Gustine Middle School and High School, Gustine Police Department, and Merced Probation Department will work to share information as appropriate and use cross-agency resources to ensure that students do not fall through the cracks).
MAPS+ aims to reduce violent incidents in the district by 10%. Further, the number of suspensions will decrease by 15% and reduce justice-involvement recidivism rates among participants in El Joven Noble interventions. MAPS+’s activities will also increase the percentage of students and staff who perceive school as “very safe” or “safe” and decrease the percentage of students afraid of being beaten up. The intended outcome will be a 10% increase in student connectivity.