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Cameron County, Brownsville ISD partnership wins $500K grant for school safety

November 24, 2018

The Brownsville Independent School District and Cameron County have won a nearly $500,000 federal grant that will be used to improve school safety.

The Justice Department awarded them $480,400 through the Cops Stop School Violence Grant, which the department said was created to “bolster school security, educate and train students and faculty, and support law enforcement officers and first responders who arrive on the scene of a school violence incident.”

Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas said their application was one of five in Texas to be selected for funding. The district and county partnered on the grant proposal.

Zendejas said the grant will fund safety training for teachers, staff, students and security personnel “in how to handle issues pertinent to safety of our campuses.”

“We hope there will never be, but a situation that would cause us to get into action,” she said. “The grant allows us to make sure our politics and security … (are) ready to handle anything that may occur.”

Zendejas stopped short of talking about U.S. school shootings that have made headlines around the globe. Lopez High School underwent a 30-minute soft lockdown in May after a student reported a social media post about a campus shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, that misunderstood to be about Lopez High School.

The BISD Board of Trustees in March appropriated $400,000 for school security. Zendejas said the district has allotted over $1 million to add one police officer at each middle school and a second police officer at each high school.

“It’s not the last effort because the security and safety of students is an ongoing process,” she said.

Zendejas said the partnership with Cameron County will give the district access to more resources. They will begin work on a plan to distribute the funds after Thanksgiving, she said.

Mark Yates, who heads the Cameron County Program Development and Management Department, said he was alerted about the grant over the summer by a staffer from Rep. Filemon Vela’s office. He reached out to school districts about applying for the funds, and his department worked with BISD to craft the application.

His department applies for community-oriented policing grants, Yates said, and hopes to partner with more school districts to apply for the funds next year. It’s part of the public’s expectation that government officials stay proactive when it comes to school safety, he added.

“We’re interested in drawing down funds from the federal government whenever we can, especially for projects that seem to have a lot of merit,” he said.

nadia@brownsvilleherald.com

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