Published August 16, 2016
PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION – The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded Wounded Knee District School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling $300,000. The grant will be used to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following numerous student suicide deaths, beginning in late December 2014.
This is the fourth Project SERV grant awarded to a school on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The first grant was awarded to Pine Ridge School, the second to Little Wound School, the third to Crazy Horse School and the current grant to Wounded Knee—all to assist with recovery efforts following high student suicides and attempted suicides. Since 2010, the Department has awarded nearly $1 million in Project SERV grants to the four schools, including Wounded Knee, on the reservation.
“I spent time on the Pine Ridge Reservation a few months ago and was moved by the resilience of these students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “The Department of Education is committed to helping this communitystrengthen its schools and expand opportunities so that students can focus on learning and get the quality education that they need to reach their full potential.”
Project SERV provides funding for local educational agencies (LEAs) and institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have experienced a significant violent or traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and re-establish a safe environment conducive to learning. There are two types of Project SERV awards—Immediate Services and Extended Services. Immediate Services grants provide emergency, short-term assistance to affected school districts or colleges and universities. Extended Services grants assist school districts and colleges and universities in carrying out the long-term recovery efforts that may be needed following a significant, traumatic event. To date, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded more than $44 million to 137 grantees, including Wounded Knee District School, since the grants program began in 2001.
Specifically, Wounded Knee will use its Immediate Services grant implement a number of programs relating to mental health and substance abuse, behavior, peer-to-peer support, and culturally-based services. The school also will use funds to hire a counselor/social worker to work with at-risk students and students who have experienced trauma, as well as with staff to help them identify students in crisis and be as supportive as possible.
Wounded Knee District School is a rural Tribal grant school on the Pine Ridge Reservation that serves K-8 students. Since December 2014, the Wounded Knee District alone has experienced five death related to suicides. These tragedies, along with numerous others by students attending other schools on the reservation, caused the Pine Ridge Reservation Tribal government to declare a state of emergency. From December 2014 to March 2015, nine people ages 12 to 24 committed suicides, and 103 more attempts were recorded.
The Obama Administration is committed to finding solutions to the pressing problems that confront Native youth, with an emphasis on education, economic development, and health. Last year, the Department of Education, in coordination with the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education and the Bureau of Indian Education, brought together approximately 120 educators with local, state, and federal leaders to attend Oglala Lakota Living, Language and Learning: a Gathering of Pine Ridge Educators. The goal of the four convenings was to support a framework for further collaboration in addressing how schools could work together to better support Pine Ridge students.
Federal grants like the Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP) can also help Pine Ridge and others that apply. It supports preschool through college-level projects that help American Indian and Alaska Native youth prepare for college and careers. The Department recently announced that it will make $17.4 million in new awards in FY 2016, which is triple the $5.3 million that was provided last year.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget request expands NYCP funding to $53 million and provides $350 million for Preschool Development Grants (PDG). The NYCP grants support the President’s Generation Indigenous “Gen I” Initiative launched last year to help Native American youth, and the PDG program is aimed at helping to develop and expand high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities, including planning grants to tribal governments.
Additionally, last November, eight federally recognized tribes collectively received nearly $2.5 million in grant awards to bolster their educational programs. The grants were funded through the Department of Education’s State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) program, and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education’s Tribal Education Department (TED) program.