Following a six-month public process, including collaboration with the Douglas County School District, charter and private school leadership, and experts in school security and behavioral health, the Board of Douglas County Commissioners has revealed the distribution of $10 million in one-time funds set aside following the May 7, 2019 STEM School shooting.
The Commissioners announced that approximately $7.7 million will be awarded to Douglas County neighborhood, charter and private schools for physical school safety – such as communications technology, training, access control, and enhanced building security – while $1.3 million will be set aside for innovation and emerging technology.
Approximately $990,000 will support mental health for students, including requests from schools for programs and training such as: school climate and culture assessments; social emotional learning; suicide prevention and intervention programming; mental health supports/interventions that build on existing programming; and Mental Health First Aid and related training for staff, parents and students.
During her remarks County Commissioner Lora Thomas said, “The duty to protect our children isn’t just up to schools and law enforcement. We all must come together, and not just emotionally for a short time, but in a sustained way. By putting partisan politics aside to unite in the best possible way to meet this ever-growing challenge to protect the most precious among us – our children – Douglas County is providing funding that is simply a platform to help galvanize, unite and walk alongside all schools in a meaningful way.”
When providing the update on a newly-created Youth Community Response Team (CRT) – launched earlier in the week – that will respond directly to a school’s request for specialized mental health support, Commissioner Thomas said, “Douglas County is committing to ongoing funding of $331,000 annually so that a dedicated team will be available to collaborate with the child, the parents and the school to provide ongoing care for children in need.”
The Board also updated those gathered on the additional School Resource Officers (SRO) in County schools within the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction as a result of the additional, annual $3 million for new SRO positions. In the 2018-19 school year, there were only 11. The County has increased that commitment to 26 SROs in the 2019-20 year.
County Commissioner Roger Partridge, Board Chair, addressed the nearly 200 gathered including parents, teachers and administrators, students, law enforcement, behavioral health professionals, and elected leaders in his opening remarks: “Six months ago when this Board decided to step forward with the offer of $13.3 million, we knew we were embarking on something different. We didn’t have all the answers, yet we wanted there to be a catalyst for change. What we will share today was inspired, informed and cannot be achieved without you and many others.”
Commissioner Abe Laydon said, “We know that nothing we do will stop all evil in the world from happening, but I am thankful that through the leadership and collaboration of this community we can say with confidence today, in honor of Kendrick Castillo and his family, that together we will wrap our schools in solutions that create an incredible hurdle to evil like this from ever happening again.”