LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A grant from a federal program intends to reduce violent crime in Pine Bluff schools.
The $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice was awarded to the University of Arkansas for Medical Science Institute for Digital Health & Innovation program to improve school security. The institute’s program, School Telemedicine in Arkansas for Lessons in Trauma-informed Education, or STARLITE, provides tools for school staff and students to recognize and respond to prevent violent acts.
The three-year grant will be used to encourage and improve communications between families and schools and create a comprehensive school safety plan, officials said.
Harrison-based Seed Digging Wellness Center and the Hurricane Hype Center at New St. Hurricane Baptist Church in Pine Bluff will collaborate with the institute and school district in the program. Seed Digging has emotional and behavior control programs, and Hurricane Hype develops youth programs providing social support.
Stanley Ellis, principal investigator for STARLITE and director of education for the UAMS institute, said the organization choice was intentional.
“We understand that it takes more than one entity to execute such a worthy endeavor, and that is why it is important that we work with organizations native to this community and trusted by its residents to give us a better chance of saving our youth,” Ellis said.
Pine Bluff is the latest Arkansas school district to add the STARLITE program, which began with three pilot sites in Jasper, Lamar and Magazine. School officials in these districts are trained to respond to mental health crises and coordinate between law enforcement and school personnel in handling threats.