Seymour schools receive Safe Haven grant


Seymour Community School Corp. has received one of seven Safe Haven grants awarded by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

The grants will be used to reduce substance use and bullying in schools.

The institute awarded more than $150,000 in matching grants to five public schools to address bullying and substance use during the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

The funding is part of the School Safe Haven program, which was developed by the Indiana General Assembly in 1995 to create a safe physical and social environment for students.

The projects and funding amounts were approved by the ICJI board of trustees this month. In Jackson County, Seymour was awarded $78,500 for the program. Other counties receiving the grant are Gibson, $1,697; Hamilton, $42,070; Porter, $4,400; and Posey, $32,664.

Seymour aims to reduce behaviors that lead to office discipline referrals and suspensions, in turn providing an increased layer of school security.

Diane Altemeyer, director of federal and state programs for SCSC, said this year, the Safe Haven proposal required a bullying prevention component to applications, and the Bullying Prevention-Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports model was a natural fit.

“Bullying prevention is another layer to our behavior support program that we’ve already implemented,” Altemeyer said.

Katie Leitzman, who wrote the Safe Haven grant application this spring, was Seymour’s PBIS specialist for the first two years and is now the assistant director of federal programs.

Steffen Lewis will assume the role of PBIS specialist when school starts in August.

“The Safe Haven grant supports the salary of the PBIS specialist, but I’m able to braid other Title grant funds to support our elementary school in the implementation of the PBIS model,” Altemeyer said.

The specialist will work directly with students, staff and families to provide support, facilitate implementation and ensure success of the PBIS program.

As the schools in Seymour continue to build upon the PBIS model, the elementary school environments will increasingly become more socially predictable, consistent, safe and positive.

The bullying prevention model will be added to the PBIS program in the corporation’s five elementary schools this fall: Brown, Emerson, Jackson, Redding and Cortland.

“Bullying or dealing with substance use issues can have a devastating impact on a student’s ability to learn and succeed in life,” said Devon McDonald, executive director of the ICJI. “At ICJI, we’re working to address these issues before they start and assist schools in creating the best possible environment for students to succeed.”

Through education, outreach and school personnel training, Safe Haven works to reduce physical bullying as well as online. Other efforts of the program are to reduce alcohol, tobacco and drug use while promoting safety and educational progress.

Grants were available to public schools and public charter schools and will be used to fund bullying prevention programs and counseling services and provide after-school support.

Michael Ross, ICJI’s behavioral health division director and licensed clinical social worker, said kids who have been bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic and mental health issues.

He said bullying can leave a lasting mark on the developing brain that’s as serious as the developmental and emotional impact of child abuse.

“Being bullied is an extremely stressful and often traumatic experience,” Ross said. “It has been linked to many negative outcomes, including anxiety, depression, substance use, poor academic performance and even suicide.”

He said through Safe Haven, they’re proud to come alongside schools that are working to address the root causes and mitigate the effects of bullying.

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