Loyola received a nearly $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help prevent acts of violence in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Program.
Headed by the School of Social Work, Loyola will use the $977,580 grant handed down by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to launch the Loyola STOP School Violence (LSSV) project. Carried out over the next three years, the project will consist of research and development of violence prevention programs which then will be implemented in six public schools in economically disadvantaged Chicago communities, according to a university press release.
The initiative is a part of the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, which seeks to improve security in schools by providing federal funding for the training of teachers and education of students to prevent violence against others and self and also includes specialized training for school officials responding to mental health crises.
Dr. Caleb Kim, an associate professor with the School of Social Work and a principal investigator of LSSV, has envisioned these initiatives. Kim was key in securing the federal grant allowing Loyola to pursue this project.
LSSV will train school staff members and police officers to better respond to and be more aware of student’s mental health issues, Kim said. He explained during each of the three years, the project will focus on two schools. During the first year the project will work with Lincoln Park High School and the Lasalle Language Academy.
“We are going to hire a couple of violence prevention specialists who will visit each school, and then he or she will provide after school programs,” Kim said. “Masters students in the School of Social Work will join the project as interns, they will go to partner schools and provide several programs.”
Kim said he hopes to reach over 200 students every year, and hopes that after the project comes to an end the programs LSSV will promote will remain permanently in the schools. He said as a district CPS has wide-reaching problems, including low-graduation rates and high crime rates.
“Violence is one of the severe problems in CPS,” he said. “Englewood High School, one of my target schools, has about a 700% higher crime rate compared with the nationwide crime rate.”
He said his goals with the LSSV project are to increase the graduation rate and see students less engaged in violent behaviors such as dating and sexual violence, drugs and bullying.
“I will begin by buying the programs, training interns, hiring staff and then financially supporting some of the needy students as well,” Kim said. “Some students may not have a bus card or lunch money. Not only is it about training and educating them, but you need to provide comprehensive service so that they can come to school everyday.”
He said because of a lack of staffing in schools, many CPS students lack in or don’t get extra support. He said the project’s specialists will give CPS extra help and collaborate with school teachers to be aware of and reduce violent behaviors and bullying.
“Preventing violence doesn’t mean only education, it has to be holistic,” he said. “We have to look at the family situation, financial issues and school systems too. If necessary we might do home visits and parenting education.”
Kim and the School of Social Work are also currently working on the Building Resilience Against Violence Engagement (BRAVE) youth violence prevention program, which was funded by a $1.7 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Minority Health in 2017.
“Our BRAVE program for preventing minority youth violence in disadvantaged communities prepare us well to tackle student violence in CPS,” Kim said in the university’s press release. “Through this timely grant, we can continue to collaborate with communities and schools not only to prevent violence but also improve their academic success.”
Kim explained BRAVE is centered within community social service centers, and LSSV will differ as it will take Kim’s programs directly into schools. Through BRAVE, Kim and Loyola partner with community agencies and provide programs and funds for education training, which the agencies then carry out.
One of these agencies is Centro Romero, located in Rogers Park. Kim said more than twenty Rogers Park students — from Senn High School, Sullivan High School and the Chicago Math and Science Academy — have been involved with the project and its services at Centro Romero, during each of its four years.
“For four years we provided them continual service and encouraged them to apply to college,” he said.” The outcome is the violence engagement is reduced, students’ grades increase, they are encouraged to go to college and then they organize their own student groups for engaging in community.”
Kim said evaluations found students’ behavior is less aggressive and they attend school more regularly, their GPAs went up, they have better communication with their parents and they are less likely to join a gang. He said Centro Romero will continue these efforts when the BRAVE project ends this summer.
He said he hopes these positive results of the BRAVE program will be seen on a wider scale as the LSSV project gets underway in Chicago’s schools.