Exactly one year since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued the following statement:
“One year ago, in Uvalde, Texas, families experienced the horror of learning their precious loved ones were among the 19 fourth graders and two educators killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, along with 17 others seriously injured. “In the wake of this tragedy, the U.S. Department of Education pledged that Uvalde would not have to shoulder this burden alone, and that we would use every resource available to support them in every way possible. One year later, the needs in Uvalde remain significant. In addition to the $1.5 million we provided last year to support their immediate needs, we are continuing our commitment with another $1.5 million Project SERV grant to help students, families, and educators continue coping with this grief and trauma as the district works to restore a sense of safety in their schools.
“We cannot fathom the unspeakable pain these families and the community have endured over the last year. We cannot accept a status quo in which our educators have to teach our children how to run, hide, and fight before they learn to read. We cannot ignore that America is the only country where guns are the number one killer of children and teens.
“I am proud of the long overdue investments in school safety and mental health made possible by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which President Biden signed into law last year. We as a nation, must do more. Military-style weapons have turned far too many schools and communities into battlefields, and as President Biden has made clear, we need stronger, commonsense gun violence prevention laws.
“I will never forget my visit to Uvalde, mourning with the families and teachers, and listening to their desperate pleas for action. I pray for them, and I pray for our nation’s lawmakers to put the lives of children ahead of the gun industry.” To continue support for the Uvalde community, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is awarding an additional $1.5 million in School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grant funding to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) to support the district’s ongoing recovery efforts. The funding will help sustain activities currently funded by the $1.5 million Project SERV grant the district received last year in the immediate wake of the tragedy.
Following last year’s tragedy, Secretary Cardona visited Uvalde and initiated emergency funding to meet critical needs in the district and broader community. Since the tragedy, Secretary Cardona and other Department staff communicated with UCISD leadership and their Texas Education Agency colleagues and pledged to support district recovery efforts in the district and community with a range of technical assistance, including direct access to Department personnel and partners who have helped other school districts navigate, respond to, and recover after acts of school violence. Project SERV funds are authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and may be used for activities that help restore a sense of safety and security for the district’s students, teachers, staff, and families, and that address specific needs of those individuals directly affected by the shooting. Such activities include providing mental health services for staff and students; overtime pay for teachers, counselors, and security staff; and the activities may take place over the summer in the form of additional summer programming.
Because of lives lost in Buffalo and Uvalde and the courageous advocacy of the victims’ families and survivors of these shootings, and so many other acts of gun violence, President Biden worked with Congress to enact the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the most significant gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years. Among other investments, BSCA provides $1 billion in Stronger Connections Grant Program funding to support states, districts, and schools in establishing safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments. With this funding, states must develop competitions for high-need local educational agencies to apply for funding, which they may use for purposes such as expanding school-based mental health services, providing safety and violence prevention programs, addressing the physical security of schools, and creating and implementing emergency operating plans. Most states are in the process of running these competitions and awarding these grants now.
The Department has also made nearly $300 million in awards to date for school-based mental health supports for schools, which are projected to prepare an additional 14,000 mental health professionals for America’s schools. And, on May 18, 2023, the Department and HHS announced additional actions that will make it easier for schools to bill Medicaid to deliver necessary health services, including mental health services, to students.