The Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (CSSI) funds rigorous research to produce practical knowledge that can improve the safety of students and schools. The Initiative is carried out through partnerships between researchers, educators, and other stakeholders; including law enforcement, behavioral and mental health professionals, courts, and other justice system professionals. Projects funded under the CSSI are designed to improve understanding that can be applied to schools and school districts across the nation for years to come. This solicitation includes five funding categories with different expectations and requirements to accomplish the purposes of the CSSI.
Authorizing Legislation: Any awards under this solicitation would be made under statutory authority provided by a full-year appropriations act for FY 2017. As of the writing of this solicitation, the Department of Justice is operating under a short-term “Continuing Resolution”; no full-year appropriation for the Department has been enacted for FY 2017.
NIJ has administered the CSSI since 2014. The initiative was a response to disturbing highprofile incidents of violence in our nation’s schools. Schools are mostly safe places — but when violence occurs in a school, it strikes a blow against a fundamental institution within our communities. Educators and public safety officials grapple with the challenge of creating and maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment for students. CSSI is an investment in building sound and objective knowledge to improve the safety of schools, students, and communities across the nation. CSSI is focused on K-12 public schools (including public charter schools). The initiative is concerned with all forms of violence that occur on school property during or outside of school hours, on the way to-and-from school or school-sponsored events, on school-sponsored modes of transport, or during school-sponsored events.
Framing the Problems that CSSI Aims to Address
CSSI funding may support and address a wide range of school safety activities. Within the program parameters and in furtherance of the goals and objectives detailed in this solicitation, applicants have considerable discretion in determining the kinds of school safety initiatives they propose to address. Applicants are strongly advised to review the previously funded projects.2 While studies looking at similar topics will be considered, NIJ may give priority in award decisions to well-designed research that expands the range of issues and strategies beyond this current pool of funded projects.
There are multiple authoritative sources that provide recommendations and guidance for those seeking to improve school safety. For example, the National Academy of Sciences published Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice, 3 the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to develop Safe School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics,4 six relevant professional associations released A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools; 5 the U.S. Department of Education released Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline; 6 and in 2013, a collection of federal agencies comprised of the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security released a Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. 7 NIJ, through its National Law Enforcement Corrections Technology Center system, has produced a four-volume set titled Sharing Ideas & Resources to Keep Our Nation’s Schools Safe, which features innovative ideas and practices from the field. Applicants are encouraged to consider these resources and others when developing their projects. Applicants should also seek out and consider any available research and evaluation findings relevant to proposed projects.
Every award made under CSSI must include a carefully developed research strategy with clear potential for producing findings that have practical benefits for schools, students, and communities at large. Research strategies should include clearly stated research questions, the most rigorous appropriate research design to answer those questions, a minimally intrusive data collection strategy, provisions for protecting students from unintended harm during the research process, and a plan for sharing findings with practitioners and policymakers who can most benefit from them. NIJ is open to supporting a wide range of appropriate and rigorous research designs to address and understand the full range of school and student safety issues and activities.
With few exceptions, most studies on school safety require educators and other stakeholders within the schools and in the community to work closely with researchers to ask the right questions, prioritize challenges, identify solutions, collect data, and make sense of the findings. No single profession or discipline holds all of the answers to the complex challenges of creating and maintaining safe learning environments for children — therefore applicants should consider multidisciplinary approaches. NIJ expects applications for CSSI to prominently feature close collaboration and partnerships involving schools, researchers, and others as necessary (e.g., justice professionals, parents, and students) to implement and study the proposed issues and activities related to school and student safety.
As noted on the title page, NIJ strongly recommends that research organizations be designated as the applicant (the “prime”) for CSSI awards, making subawards (“subgrants”) to participating stakeholders as appropriate for the proposed project. This arrangement is preferred in order to produce the highest quality research while reducing administrative burdens to SEAs, LEAs, and other stakeholders. Research organizations may be institutions of higher education, nonprofit or for-profit organizations, or public entities that have experience in conducting applied research and evaluation.
An applicant may propose to work with any combination of elementary, middle, or high schools, or may elect to focus solely on a single type of school or range of grades. An applicant should consider carefully the schools and grades that it will focus on based on the research questions it proposes to address. Care should be taken to assure that proposed programmatic and research activities are developmentally appropriate for the impacted student population. Applicants are also encouraged to consider appropriate ways to involve students and parents in safety planning and activities.
Applicants should consider interventions that include coordination with diverse partners including local law enforcement, behavioral and mental health professions, courts, criminal and juvenile justice professionals, as well as parents and youth. Proposed interventions should also take into account recent research findings related to disciplinary policies and practices that may be overly harsh or exclusionary. Such policies and practices have created what some refer to as a “school-to-prison pipeline” in which relatively minor student misconduct is subjected to suspensions, expulsions, and involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system.”
Excerpted from FY 2017 Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, OMB No. 1121-0329