5 ways to increase school safety with technology (and grant funding)
How to leverage technology and grants like the School Violence Prevention Program to create safer learning environments

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There were nearly 350 school shootings in the United States in 2023, and at least 16 as of March 6 this year. In the wake of increasing concerns about school safety, administrators and law enforcement agencies are turning to advanced technology solutions to create safer learning environments.

From access control integration and video surveillance to emergency communication systems and threat assessment tools, cutting-edge solutions are essential to creating a multi-layered approach to school safety.

The federal government and some state governments are helping organizations pay for school safety solutions through various funding opportunities. One such example is the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) grant. However, the deadline to apply is quickly approaching. (The annual grant application is a two-part process that was due in May last year. A similar deadline is expected this year.)

But what does it take to secure this funding and implement the technology solutions that can truly make a difference in protecting students and staff? The answer lies in a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that addresses the safety measures identified in the school safety plan.

Understanding the SVPP grant

The SVPP competitive award program, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), provides funding to improve security at schools and on school grounds.

With individual awards of up to $500,000 per applicant — with a 25% cost match requirement —the grant offers substantial support for schools hoping to invest in their safety infrastructure.

SVPP funding can cover up to 75% of funding for the following school safety measures:

  • Coordination with law enforcement.
  • Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence.
  • Metal detectors, locks, lighting, cameras, and other deterrent measures.
  • Technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency.
  • Any other measure that the COPS Office determines may provide a significant improvement in security.

Eligibility for the SVPP grant is limited to public K-12 schools, with primary applicants being local law enforcement agencies, state law enforcement agencies, units of local government (such as counties, cities, and school districts), federally recognized Indian tribes and their public agencies, and public government agencies. While private schools are not eligible to apply directly, they may partner with eligible applicants to benefit from the grant.

The grant performance period spans three years (36 months), allowing schools ample time to implement their safety initiatives. However, the clock starts ticking once the funds are awarded, making timely implementation critical. Schools that have not completed a comprehensive school safety assessment at the time of application must do so during the grant period, using the results to inform their safety measures and ensure a safe, non-discriminatory learning environment.

Five essential elements of a school safety plan

To qualify for the SVPP grant, schools must develop a comprehensive safety plan that addresses the following five key elements:

  1. Site assessment/threat assessment. Evaluates the school’s physical security, identifying potential vulnerabilities and assessing the likelihood and impact of various threats, including previous threats or incidents.
  2. Emergency Operations Plans (EOP). Also known as an action plan, response plan, or crisis plan, this addresses hazards and threats before, during, and after an incident, including recovery plans for academic, physical, fiscal, and psychological aspects. Usually conducted in close coordination with local government, law enforcement, and community members to ensure a seamless, coordinated response. These proactive steps minimize the chances of mistakes when incidents occur.
  3. Communication and reporting systems. Allows students, staff, and community members to quickly and easily report suspicious or concerning behavior, enabling early intervention and prevention, and, ultimately, ensuring the right people get the right message at the right time.
  4. Training and drills. Covers topics like emergency procedures, evacuation protocols, and everyone’s specific roles and responsibilities during an incident. Drills, both discussion-based and operations-based, let you practice and refine emergency response plans in a low-risk environment.
  5. A dedicated team for managing and implementing safety and security policies, programs, and training within the school district. Examples include safety/security departments, mental health professionals, and certified emergency management personnel.

These elements not only form the foundation of a robust, evidence-based approach to school safety, but they also demonstrate a genuine commitment to the safety and well-being of students and staff — thereby ensuring that schools are prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover from incidents of violence.

Technology solutions for school safety

The SVPP grant supports a wide range of equipment and technology solutions designed to enhance school safety and security.

Eligible equipment includes entry control systems, classroom door peepholes, alarm systems, motion detectors, and improved lighting on school grounds. These physical security measures help control access, deter potential threats, and ensure adequate visibility.

On the technology side, the grant supports advanced communication tools like emergency call boxes, intercom systems, panic alarms, and two-way radios, as well as automated alert systems for sending text messages or emails during crises. ID scanning devices and tracking systems can be implemented to control access and monitor school buses or student locations. Video surveillance technology and geographic information system (GIS) software for creating detailed maps are also eligible.

By leveraging these equipment and technology solutions, schools can create a comprehensive, multi-layered approach that addresses the five essential elements of a school safety plan.

A trusted partner with you every step of the way

We know this is a lot to process, and with the deadline fast approaching, you might feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we have you covered.

SHI’s grant specialists are well-versed in the intricacies of the SVPP and other funding opportunities available for school safety initiatives. Through the SHI Grant Support Program, you can access a wide range of complimentary services to streamline the grant application process and increase your chances of success.

The program offers educational information and personalized assistance from experts who can help you find the right resources and funding opportunities to support your safety goals. SHI provides customized funding reports tailored to your school’s specific needs, ensuring you pursue the most relevant and promising grants for your projects.

Furthermore, SHI’s team offers expert consultative calls to help you develop project ideas, secure funding, and expand existing initiatives. With this vast knowledge and guidance, you can confidently maneuver the funding landscape and achieve your safety objectives.

Turn your vision into a reality

The SVPP presents a unique opportunity for schools to secure the funding they need to create safer, more secure learning environments. By developing a comprehensive safety plan and leveraging the latest technology solutions, you can proactively prevent and respond to incidents.

However, the application deadline will be here before you know it. Don’t let it pass you by. With SHI’s expertise, resources, and commitment to your success, you can confidently pursue the SVPP grant (and other funding opportunities) to make your school safety vision a reality.

Contact SHI’s grant specialists today to learn more about how we can support you in securing the financing you need to protect your students, staff, and community.

Speak with a grants specialist