Thirty schools in St. Louis and St. Louis County will benefit from nearly $1.5 million in federal funding for programs to combat the adverse effects of trauma on students.
The funding is offered specifically in response to the protests and violence that erupted in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and other incidents in the region.
The St. Louis funding, announced Thursday through the U.S. Department of Education’s “Promoting Student Resilience” initiative, is part of more than $5 million awarded overall. The rest of the share went to schools in both Baltimore and Chicago where similar civil unrest occurred, much of it in protest to fatal law enforcement action against blacks.
The grants support programs linking schools with mental health service providers and community-based organizations to address educational, behavioral and mental health needs of youth who were affected by the civil unrest.
St. Louis funding will be used to launch trauma-informed programs and training for staff in 18 elementary schools in St. Louis Public Schools, six north St. Louis County public schools that serve areas in and around Ferguson, and six nonpublic schools in St. Louis.
Ultimately the grants aim to strengthen schools’ capacity to understand the effects of trauma and “toxic stress” on student behavior, said Jerry Dunn, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis. The agency will provide training to school staff to create more understanding and environments to help kids dealing with trauma.
Dunn said the unrest in Ferguson and elsewhere was traumatic for children and their families.
But those events were only part of the many types of chronic stresses and trauma children face in the region.
“There are underlying circumstances within many children’s lives throughout St. Louis city and county that are inherently traumatic,” Dunn said. ”It could be trauma from living in poverty. It could be from crime. It could be child abuse and neglect. And that has far-reaching implications in their social and emotional behaviors as well as their learning behaviors.”
In February, the Post-Dispatch published a special report on toxic stress and trauma experienced by children living in Ferguson from the civil unrest and ensuing police response as well as chronic neighborhood violence and poverty.
The funding is intended to work in partnership with another $4.7 million federal grant announced this week through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
That grant went to help fund counseling, after-school programs, violence-prevention efforts and other initiatives in the federally designated St. Louis Promise Zone, which includes parts of St. Louis, portions of 26 St. Louis County municipalities and parts of unincorporated north St. Louis County.