Making Kids Safer at School With Newly Available Funds

An overview of the BSCA education funds

By the BELE Network

With the school year well underway, educators have an opportunity to redefine what they mean by student safety. Parents are justifiably concerned about their kids’ safety at school, and Congress has made important investments in protecting students. Those investments, however, should prioritize evidence-based approaches that are aligned with the science of learning and development and make students safer by creating environments where they feel accepted and valued. In doing so, we can ensure all students feel safer and avoid “hardening” schools into severe, inflexible environments that can actually make some students less emotionally and physically safe.

Educators can redefine school safety in a way that continues to keep students safe from physical violence, while also creating supportive learning environments that benefit students’ mental health and well-being. Together, these pieces all contribute to a better student experience at school — the kind that leads to stronger academic and life outcomes after graduation. This commitment is shared by the U.S. Department of Education as well as school districts across the country. And it isn’t a commitment only on paper — there’s real money behind it, too.

The investment

Congress recently greenlit $1 billion in funding through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) for states and districts to invest in creating safer and healthier learning environments for students. State education agencies will direct the funds allocated to their states to high-need local education agencies (such as school districts and county education offices) for use in efforts specifically towards that end. You can find a state-by-state breakdown here. Examples of what these efforts can look like include:

  • Support school-based, trauma-informed mental health services
  • Establish learning environments that enhance learning skills
  • Improve instructional practices for developing relationship-building skills

You can find more information about allowable activities here.

Recommendations

District and county applicants will have to identify needs unique to their district(s) and state agencies will decide how to disburse federal funding. To that end, Secretary Cardona outlined three areas where he encourages schools and districts to focus their commitments. These recommendations strongly align with The BELE Network’s Essential Actions for building equitable learning environments and improving student experience, and we’re excited to contribute our own resources in support of districts seeking to understand more about how to take actionable steps towards these commitments:

The BELE Network is working alongside partner members and organizations to best support schools and districts in mapping out how to allocate funds. We encourage you to visit the BELE Resource Library, an evolving repository of resources and recommendations, to find the resources best suited to your unique needs. You can also subscribe to the BELE monthly newsletter here to get the latest learnings straight to your inbox.

The BELE Network is dedicated to reimagining our inequitable school system that has failed too many for too long, and is committed to transforming our classrooms into learning environments that nurture the intellectual, emotional and cultural growth of all students — especially students of color. Learn more about BELE on our website, and access our resource library to get the best and most up-to-date thinking on how to make learning environments more equitable.

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The BELE Network

We are committed to creating learning environments that equitably support every student — especially students of color and low-income students. belenetwork.org