Durant ISD implements mental health program through federal grant

DURANT, Okla. (KXII) -- Durant public schools are getting $150 thousand to improve the mental health of their students.

They'll be bringing in an anti-gun violence group that was started in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed in an elementary school.

The money was given by the Department of Justice under the STOP School Violence Act, a bill every Texas and Oklahoma representative voted to pass earlier this year.

Over the next three years, Durant will be teaching this new program.

The point is to prevent violence by training students and school staff to look for the signs.

"If kids can't feel safe when they're at school, then they can't learn, they can't grow," said Durant Director of Safe Schools Delinda Knox.

Knox said part of the money will go towards emergency management plans for classrooms, crisis manuals and a new curriculum for the six schools.

"We're going to be implementing three different programs in our schools," Knox said.

Those programs are through the non-profit Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that trains schools in all 50 states to recognize at-risk behaviors.

One is called Start with Hello.

"And it's teaching children to include others. You know, if you see a child left sitting by themselves, not to exclude and to include everyone," Knox said.

The other two focus on reducing the stigma of mental health and speaking up when kids see things out of the ordinary.

"Kids that are always drawing pictures of guns or always talking about wanting to kill somebody...Then they need to say something, rather than just ignoring it and letting it pass. Because those things kind of have a domino effect and we end up with a tragedy," Knox said.

"And I think it's hard. If you're not taught how, then it gets more complicated. It's harder to push it on you the older you get," said Ashley Summerville, whose niece and nephew go to elementary schools in Durant.

Her daughter is in first grade in Silo, and might go to a Durant ISD school next year.

"I think it's a good idea. I think kids should learn to communicate with their peers instead of turning to violence," Summerville said.

They'll start teaching the program in the spring.

Knox said they'll also be adding active shooter trainings for faculty and staff.