Students with Live to Tell, a student-led suicide prevention organization, meet with Sen. Jeff Merkley at his Salem office in 2019. (File photo by Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Each of Oregon’s 19 regional education service districts will be able to hire a full-time specialist to oversee school safety and prevention programs with new federal funds. 

The specialists, who support mental health and suicide prevention programs and crisis response teams at schools across the state, will be paid with federal COVID relief money distributed by Gov. Kate Brown.

Brown announced on Thursday she would allocate $3.3 million from the $32.5 million available to her in the Governor’s Education Relief Fund for the hiring the school safety specialists. 

In a news release, Brown said the specialists would help education service districts, which provide programs and services for the state’s 196 school districts, build up existing violence prevention programs as well as programs to prevent violence, bullying and harassment, and to promote student mental health.

“Every student in Oregon deserves to be safe from gun violence. Every parent should be able to send their child to school knowing they will come home safe. Every teacher and school employee should be able to go to work without fear for their safety or that of the students under their care,” Brown wrote. 

Currently, only two education service districts have a full-time specialist dedicated to overseeing student safety programs at schools in each region. Nine have a part-time safety official. With the funding, each district will have a full-time specialist, according to Brown’s release. 

The federal Department of Education also announced Thursday that Oregon is eligible for more than $8 million in federal funds from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. That bill, which largely focused on gun safety regulations, included ​​a $1 billion allocation to schools for boosting student mental health programs and staff. It was passed in the wake of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults were killed. 


Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.