Washoe schools get grant for anti-violence program

By Martin Griffith, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 27, 2014 at 3:21 p.m.



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RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Washoe County School District has received a $973,000 federal grant for anti-violence programs, nearly a year after a deadly schoolyard shooting rampage in the Reno suburb of Sparks.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, in announcing the U.S. Department of Education grant on Friday, said it would support programs designed to keep students safe and improve their learning environments.

"The safety of our children is second to none and it must remain a top priority within our communities," he said in a statement.

The Sparks Middle School shooting last Oct. 21 was a factor in the award of the grant, and Washoe County was among only 21 school districts nationwide in communities with "pervasive violence" to receive the funding, said Katherine Loudon, the district's director of counseling.

A 12-year-old student fatally shot a teacher and wounded two classmates before turning the gun on himself.

"We know that violence did impact our community and the schools," Loudon told The Associated Press. "(Preventing another school shooting) is definitely something we're all hoping for."

Sparks Middle School earlier received a nearly $700,000 grant providing for an additional counselor, a school psychologist and a campus police officer.

The new grant will allow 10 participating elementary, middle and high schools to share three new counselors and two new social workers in an effort to reduce violence, harassment, bullying, gang involvement and substance abuse.

Among other things, the grant will be used for school and outside counseling services to assist students coping with trauma or anxiety. It also will go toward teaching students how to intervene and stop violence before it escalates.

"It's designed to head off problems that can lead to violence," said Jeana Curtis, principal of North Valleys High in Reno. "It's preventive, but it's also designed to turn people around."

The funding will allow schools to reach out to families and offer more than just academics, said Prim Walters, principal of Sun Valley Elementary, a feeder school to Sparks Middle School.

"We're very aware of families and students who can use this support," she said. "It's not just about prevention. It's also about intervention. We're trying to break the cycle."

The grant was among a total of $1.9 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Education awarded to Nevada, Sandoval said.

The Nevada Department of Education will receive a $250,000 grant to assist school districts in developing emergency response plans and a $748,000 grant to help districts implement "an evidence-based, multi-tiered" framework for improving behavior and learning conditions for students.

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Martin Griffith

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