The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students, formerly the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, has awarded Joplin Schools in Joplin, Missouri, an Extended Services Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling $818,185 to continue assistance for ongoing recovery efforts following a deadly tornado that ripped through the state last year.
Project SERV provides critical support to districts and institutions of higher education that have experienced a significant traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and re-establish a safe environment for students. The Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded more than $28 million to 93 grantees, including Joplin Schools, since the grant program began in 2001.
"The citizens of Joplin are doing heroic work to rebuild their schools and their community," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "The Department of Education is honored to provide continued support through Project SERV to help the learning process continue, and offer resources to students and educators who may still be dealing with the trauma of last year's devastating tornado."
The May 22, 2011 tornado caused 161 fatalities and numerous casualties and severe physical damage to Joplin Schools. Three schools--Joplin High School, Irving Elementary and Franklin Technology Center--were completely destroyed, and six other schools were severely damaged. Thousands of residents lost their homes and hundreds of businesses were damaged as well. Today, members of that community continue to experience trauma in the aftermath of the tornado.
To support the transition from short-term to long-term recovery, and to restore the learning environment, Joplin Schools requested and were granted Project SERV Extended Services funding. The award would provide support to personnel who will undertake a comprehensive school-centered, multi-tiered intervention and response initiative. Efforts include training educators and other personnel to provide behavioral interventions that support positive academic and behavioral changes of students.
Modeled after the student-centered multi-tiered intervention program for students, Joplin schools will implement a similar program for staff. Led by a case manager, there will be an intervention and support process for staff that includes facilitating access and referrals to mental health supports, as well as support training in "compassion fatigue." Compassion Fatigue recognizes that educators and staff are personally experiencing trauma and, at the same time, they are expected to continually care for and support the mental and behavioral needs of their students.
Department Efforts to Date to Help Restore Joplin School District:
The U.S. Department of Education has provided a continuum of resources for schools and has been working with the Joplin School District to support recovery since the tornado. Most recently, the Department awarded Joplin Schools an Immediate Services Project SERV grant of almost $50,000 to help provide local students and education staff with academic and mental health services.
Specifically, Office of Safe and Healthy Students and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Office of Individual and Community Preparedness have been collaborating to facilitate recovery and necessary support for Joplin Schools. Activities have included conference calls, technical assistance and facilitating relationship-building between Joplin School officials and key local, state, and federal officials involved in the response and recovery.
Additionally, in the fall of 2011, Duncan visited Joplin Schools, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino.
President Obama delivered the commencement address at Joplin High School on May 21, nearly one year to the date of the 2011 tornado.