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Where Youth Violence Rages, Questions About Federal Aid

Although the federal government is investing billions of dollars into combatting firearm injuries, students living under the shadow of gun violence say there's a disconnect between what the government is offering and what they need, reports NPR. Students exposed to gun violence are less likely to do well in school and less likely to graduate, making it crucial for schools to create safe spaces in the event of gun violence, or to do more to prevent it before it starts. The Biden administration is awarding $1 billion across the next several years as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. That money aims to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools. As part of the same legislation, the administration distributed about another $1 billion in grants to create what it calls "safer and healthier learning environments," employing a wide range of strategies — including anti-bullying and violence prevention programs, staff training and metal detectors.

Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Minneapolis schools ended their contract with police, getting rid of school resource officers from their buildings. At North High School, the school resource officer was also the head coach of the football team, a "trusted person" that the students wanted around to protect them, according to senior Jalen Beard. While students don't want to be over-policed, there's also the need for physical safety that requires a nuanced approach, said Sonali Rajan, an associate professor at Columbia University's Teachers College. The holistic approach is part of a larger way of thinking: treating gun violence as a disease. This thinking shift would then focus on preventing gun violence by strengthening communities. North Community High School Principal Mauri Friestleben said she isn't sure the federal grants will get to the root cause of the issue. "It's no different than one of my kids being hungry and going to the corner store and getting chips. It's satisfying a teeny, tiny little bit of hunger, but not in a healthy, sustainable, longstanding way," she says.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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