By Nicole Chavez
The US Department of Education announced Wednesday that a number of historically Black colleges and universities that recently received bomb threats are now eligible for federal grants aimed at improving mental health resources and campus security.
“The recent bomb threats experienced by HBCUs have shaken students and fractured their sense of safety and belonging, which are critical to their academic success and wellbeing,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to discuss the grants and additional resources for HBCUs on Wednesday, a day after her husband tested positive for Covid-19.
At least 57 HBCUs across the United States have received bomb threats in phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, and anonymous online posts since January, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. More than a dozen had to lock down or postpone classes on the first day of Black History Month.
The FBI has said its investigating the bomb threats “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”
HBCUs are now eligible to apply for funding under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) program, which provides awards ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 per school, according to the Education Department.
The program was created to assist institutions that have experienced a violent or traumatic incident as they work to restore “a safe environment conducive to learning.”
Dietra Trent, executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs, said the bomb threats are a “uniquely traumatic event, given the history of bombings as a tactic to intimidate and provoke fear in Black Americans during the long struggle for civil rights in the 20th century.”
Students at Spelman College in Atlanta and Jackson State University in Mississippi told CNN last month they felt unsafe, anxious and tired of facing hatred like many generations before them.
“I think that the threats aren’t individual or coincidental – that it’s a clear attack on Black students who choose to go to Black schools,” Calvert White, a 22-year-old studying social science and education at Jackson State University, told CNN at the time.
Last month, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, said he was seeking emergency funding for campus security at HBCUs after at least two institutions in the state, including Norfolk State University, were part of an alarming pattern of bomb threats.
“I am angry and deeply concerned by the recent pattern of bomb threats plaguing our Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” the governor said.