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U.S. Dept. of Justice Awards STOP School Violence Act Grant to Roanoke County Public Schools

The United States Department of Justice has awarded a grant for $133,665 to Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) for the implementation of two new programs to provide mental health supports for students.  This grant is part of the 2018 STOP School Violence Act.  More than $70 million in grants were awarded nationwide.

With the support of this grant, RCPS is implementing the School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS) program.  The SW-PBIS program helps school systems build systems capacity for implementing a multi-tiered approach to social, emotional and behavioral support.  SW-PBIS improves social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students.  SW-PBIS also helps schools serve as powerful protective function for students by focusing on violence prevention, school climate & culture, behavioral sciences, risk & protective factors, behavioral screening and more.

SW-PBIS refers to a systems change process for an entire school or district. The underlying theme is teaching behavioral expectations in the same manner as any core curriculum subject. A team comprised of administrators, classified, and regular and special education teachers will help classroom teachers focus on three to five behavioral expectations that are positively stated and easy to remember.

“Rather than telling students what not to do, the we will focus on the preferred behaviors and provide positive encouragement for those behaviors.  In doing so, appropriate behaviors are encouraged while inappropriate behaviors are redirected in a positive way,” said Dr. Jessica McClung, assistant superintendent for student services and human resources.

“This approach will help prevent potentially violent behavior by first detecting potentially inappropriate behavior and redirecting that behavior in a positive way.  The earlier we can identify students that might be experiencing mental health challenges and redirecting the behaviors contributing to those challenges, the earlier we may be able to forestall any future violent actions and help the student find positive outlets to address their challenges,” Dr. McClung said.

Grant funds will help provide training, professional development and software to implement the SW-PBIS program.

In addition, RCPS is implementing the Signs of Suicide (SOS) Prevention Program in our five middle schools, which is an evidence-based, universal prevention program for middle and high school students. Using the help-seeking acronym ACT (Acknowledge, Care, and Tell), SOS teaches youth to recognize signs of depression or suicide in themselves or in a friend and how to respond effectively. The program is designed to be universally administered to all middle and high school youth through a peer-to-peer help-seeking model. The program also engages school faculty/staff, parents, and community members as partners in youth suicide prevention and educates them as natural gatekeepers in ensuring youth safety.

“The goals of the SOS Program are to reduce suicide and attempts by increasing knowledge and adaptive attitudes and encourage individual help-seeking and help-seeking on behalf of a friend,” said Dr. Shawn Hughes, associate director of school counseling.  “This program can help reduce the stigma of mental illness and engage parents and school staff as partners in prevention,” Dr. Hughes added.

“We are continuously looking for effective, research-based programs to enhance the safety and security of our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely.  “This grant will go a long way to helping us provide training and education on preventing violence and effectively responding to related mental health crises,” said Dr. Nicely.


For more on the national STOP School Violence Act grants, please see the DSDOJ website at