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For many K‑12 schools, universities and colleges of different sizes, securing ample funding to provide students with appropriate educational and security technologies can be difficult. Data published in 2020 found that The United States has been underfunding K‑12 public schools by almost $150 billion per year, effectively preventing more than 30 million institutions from receiving necessary security equipment.

Budgetary restrictions can often leave school administrators struggling to prioritize upgrades to school security systems above more immediate expenses such as classroom supplies, transportation and staff wages, leading to grants for school safety equipment becoming increasingly desirable support options.

This guide is designed to help administrators at K‑12 schools, universities and colleges find, secure and appropriately utilize school security grants to upgrade and improve upon installed safety and security technologies. You’ll learn about a range of available school security systems grants in 2024 and get helpful advice regarding application processes, strategies for spending funds and which technologies to consider for your school or campus.

What are school safety grants?

Safe schools grants, security systems grants and other similarly named programs for improving security in schools are monetary funds, often ranging from hundreds to millions of dollars in value, awarded by government entities or charities to educational facilities that meet a specific set of pre-approved criteria.

As the name implies, these programs intend to act as grants for school security improvements and grants for school safety equipment, providing administrative staff with monetary funds designated for the purpose of performing physical upgrades to campus security and school safety technology and or systems.

Most types of safety grants for schools will be considered a source of financial aid that does not need to be repaid at a later date. However, educators must ensure that their facility continues to comply with all the terms communicated by the grant provider to avoid any possibility of the aid being withdrawn or refunded. 

Reasons schools may be required to repay grant funds include:

  • Withdrawing from the grant program earlier than agreed

  • A change in enrollment status that impacts the school’s eligibility 

  • Receiving additional scholarships or grants from outside sources

Secure school security grant funding today

Learn how to find and apply for free school security grants to improve your school’s safety and security with Avigilon’s Grant Assistance Program:

  • Get customized advice from our third-party grant experts

  • Leverage free resources and security grant finder tools

  • Strengthen your grant application with our tips

  • See how Avigilon’s end-to-end security solutions can help make your educational facilities safer

What do grants for school security improvements cover?

The exact details regarding which technologies, systems and equipment will be covered will vary depending on the school safety grant program. Generally speaking, financial aid will be offered to pay for or subsidize the costs of any technologies that schools can reasonably claim are used to improve safety and security.

Some school security grants are targeted for more specific use cases. For example, federal school security grants such as the ESSER Fund (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III) and the related American Rescue Plan (ARP funding for schools) can be used to cover most costs associated with social, emotional and mental health services, as well as technologies used to meet students’ academic needs. Independent grants can have stricter spending rules, so it’s important to carefully consider which grants may cover the specific technologies your institution needs to improve school safety.

There are, however, several security and safety technologies that most school safety grants will likely cover, as educators can make a reasonable claim that these systems can be used to provide a higher quality of security for both students and teachers.

Video surveillance cameras

Pursuing grants for school security camera systems allows educators to upgrade and improve on-site video surveillance systems by installing modern devices with smart technology features and integrations. Cloud-based IP cameras can allow security teams to view live feeds remotely and adjust pan, tilt and zoom controls to better monitor school perimeters and improve student safety.

Additionally, grants for school security can be used to fund smart software integrations such as AI-powered video surveillance analytics to provide security teams with higher-quality data that can be used to pinpoint the location of potential risks much faster. For example, safe school grants could help fund AI-powered video analytics that enable security teams and first responders to search through hours of video quickly to find a person or vehicle of interest so that they can respond faster.

Integrations with environmental sensor systems can also be leveraged so that the activation of installed vape, smoke, carbon monoxide and noise fluctuation sensors can be used to alert security personnel, via software notifications or radio communication, to the presence of potentially harmful incidents so they can pull up live footage captured by nearby cameras to determine if a response is necessary. 

Access control and locking systems

Grants for school security improvements can be used to install new or upgrade existing access control devices to prevent intruders and unauthorized persons from endangering students and staff.

School security funding for K‑12 campuses can be allocated for improved classroom security locks, such as smart locks and remotely-operated locks, which can include more advanced controls to prevent unauthorized access, as well as safety features to assist with lockdowns. Upgrading exterior door access control is also a good candidate for school security grant funding, with some systems providing enhanced scheduling and remote management options.

For universities and college campuses, modern devices featuring mobile credentials can be used to issue students with personalized access via their phones. This type of technology allows staff to monitor, edit and revoke permissions remotely to prevent intrusion events in high-risk areas like laboratories, libraries, gyms and computer labs.

These security systems can also be integrated alongside door locking mechanisms to develop full-site lockdown procedures permitting security teams to instantly secure schools in the event of an emergency, with touchless access helping to reduce the spread of illness by limiting contact with high-touch surfaces.

Panic buttons, alarms and sensors

Another common use for school security grants is to fund the installation of panic buttons and integrated school alarm systems designed to improve incident response times and alert students and staff to the presence of ongoing emergencies. The operation of panic buttons allows staff to immediately contact authorities in the event of a dangerous situation, with 43% of schools now utilizing these devices, up from 29% in 2018.

Educators may also wish to use school security grants to fund the development of IoT alarm systems to implement lockdown security systems and improve procedures and emergency responses. IoT-enabled devices use internet connectivity to share data between linked systems, allowing security staff to take a holistic approach to school safety by developing automated responses like instantly locking access points when on-site alarms are tripped.

This concept can be extended to the installation and operation of smart environmental sensors, with a range of dedicated devices available designed to improve responses to specific incidents. For example, air quality monitors can be deployed to warn students and staff of unsafe air quality in chemistry labs; temperature sensors can be used to ensure that server rooms and food storage areas remain within safe ranges; and noise detection sensors can warn staff of suspected break-ins, incidents of bullying or acts of vandalism by triggering automatic alerts in response to loud noises like glass breaking or shouting.

Types of grants for school safety equipment 

There are a large number of federal grants for school security and charitable school safety grants open for applications in 2024, though the approval criteria for each grant program may differ depending on the provider. Educators can use the School Safety Grants Finder Tool to search for available funding options based on their unique needs and requirements. We’ve also provided some basic information on popular grants below to speed up your search.

ESSER Funds for School Security

ESSER funds for school security can be used to provide financial assistance to local education agencies to prepare for, prevent and respond to the impact of COVID-19 in schools. Authorized under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) education funding act, ARP funds for schools are intended to be spent on programs and technologies used to address the learning loss experienced by students as a result of the pandemic, with no less than 20% of awarded funds required to be spent on social, emotional and academic support.

  • Source of funds — Federal Government; ARP; State Education Agencies 

  • Funding amount — Average of $3700 per student, needs assessed based on application and varies by state

  • Eligibility — All local education agencies, K‑12 schools and organizations serving students 

School Safety Grant Program (SSSG)

SSSG safe schools grants provide funding to help educators purchase equipment used to substantially improve the safety and security of school facilities. Funds can be spent on incident response equipment such as trauma and first aid supplies, communication devices, panic systems and alarms, as well as infrastructure improvements like security doors, access control, metal detectors and security cameras. 

  • Source of funds — Homeland Security Grants for School Safety; State General Funds

  • Funding amount — Maximum award of up to $40,000 with a 33.3% local cash match 

  • Eligibility — All K‑12 educational facilities, needs based on application

Secure our Schools Grant Program

Secure our Schools grant funding is provided by The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) as a component of the US Department of Justice to provide financial aid to state and local governments for the purpose of developing school safety resources. Educators can use grants for school safety equipment such as metal detectors, locks, lighting and surveillance cameras, as well as to fund security assessments, training and other evidence-based measures to provide improvements in security.

  • Source of funds — Department of Justice; State General Funds; COPS

  • Funding amount — Needs assessed based on application, 50% local cash match

  • Eligibility — All K‑12 primary and secondary schools partnered with local law enforcement agencies

SRO grants (School Resource Officer)

SRO grants provide funding to elementary and secondary schools for the purpose of placing either a School Resource Officer (SRO) or School Security Officer (SSO) in educational facilities where none currently exist. SROs and SSOs are sworn law-enforcement officers with arrest powers employed in a full-time or part-time role specifically to prevent, deter and investigate crime in an educational setting.

  • Source of funds — Department of Justice; State General Funds; COPS

  • Funding amount — Maximum award of up to $200,000 with a 50% local cash match

  • Eligibility — Priority given to K‑12 schools with no current SRO or SSO position 

COPS School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP)

In accordance with the Stop School Violence Act (STOP) 2018, the COPS Office is able to award grant funds to States, local governments and Indian tribes to be used for the purpose of improving security in schools and on school grounds via evidence-based safety programs and technology. SVPP grants can be applied for through COPS, just as with similar Department of Justice school safety grants, to aid in the funding of metal detectors, locks, panic buttons and other deterrents, as well as training for law enforcement officers.

  • Source of funds — Department of Justice; State General Funds; COPS

  • Funding amount — Maximum award of up to $500,000 with a 25% local cash match

  • Eligibility — K‑12 primary and secondary schools, needs assessed based on application

Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP)

NSGP funding offers grants for school security as a measure to improve physical security systems and provide security and safety training for school officials. Funds are awarded via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and can be used to purchase security technologies such as surveillance cameras, cloud-based access control devices and locking systems, as well as fund preparedness training exercises.

  • Source of funds — Homeland Security Grants for School Safety; FEMA

  • Funding amount — Up to $300 million total national funding for FY2023, no local cash match

  • Eligibility — Awards made to State Administrative Agencies to be passed on to nonprofits

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Get our best practices for preparing your administrative team for the grant application process, plus find helpful resources for researching available grants and tips for writing a successful proposal.

How to apply for 2024 school security grants

When applying for school security grants financed by the US government or government-affiliated bodies, school administrators will typically be required to write and submit a detailed grant proposal document to a pre-specified local or state authority outlining the intended purpose for the funding. When applying for 2024 school security grants, the proposal should include which technologies, training programs and procedures the grant funds will be used to purchase. 

All items and services purchased using safety grants for schools must align with the guidelines and rules laid out in the chosen grant program’s application criteria, with school administrators required to persuade the awarding authority that all technologies, training programs, procedures and positions paid for using grant funds are reasonably related to the central purpose of the specific school security grant program.

Some school security grant programs will be awarded on the condition that educators match a percentage of the project’s total cost using their own budgetary funds or privately raised funds in a process commonly referred to as a cash match. In this case, school admins must be prepared to explain where these funds are located and provide proof that the school is able to produce said funds without issue. 

For example, if conditions state that a school is eligible for a grant of $200,000 with a 50% cash match, a project totaling $400,000 may be proposed, with the school pitching in $200,000 using local resources.

Tips for writing school safety grants

Most federal school security grants and grant programs will accept new applications for school security funding once per year, with applicants required to assemble a dedicated grant proposal team tasked with performing a considerable amount of research and planning if they’re to produce a successful application.

School security systems grants and other similar sources of school safety funding are highly competitive, with most awarding bodies receiving a much larger number of applications than the available funds can possibly cover, meaning it’s crucial that school officials take the time to write a well-researched proposal.

Carefully consider grant requirements

A typical school safety grant program will present prospective applicants with a Request for Funding Proposal (RFP) or a Notice of Funding Availability (NFA) at the start of the application process. This document is used to outline the specific criteria applicants must meet to successfully secure funding.

School safety grants that receive a large number of applications will often look for quick ways to reject proposals to streamline assessment processes, meaning documents written using the wrong font size or proposals missing requested supporting evidence may be rejected on sight without ever being read.

To ensure that all submitted grant proposals are appropriately considered, school officials are advised to print out a copy of the RFP or NFA and highlight each critical submittal detail for reference, including:

  • Deadline dates

  • Registration information

  • Contact details

  • Formatting and document length 

  • Supporting evidence and signed forms

Appeal to selection criteria 

Most authorities awarding safety grants for schools will measure the quality of proposals by comparing the submitted content to the specific criteria outlined in their own RFP or NFA document. These criteria will generally relate to how relevant the school’s proposal is to the core purpose of the grant and whether the school has the resources required to ensure that the project will be successful. Consider the following:

  • How will the proposed project be developed and managed, and by whom? 

  • How severe is the issue that the requested funding intends to address?

  • How will the proposed project address this issue?

  • What measurable impact will the project have on the school districts?

  • How qualified are the staff intending to carry out the project?

School officials should work to structure all grant proposals to comprehensively answer these questions.

Request a second opinion

It’s wise to have someone outside the grant proposal team read through school security grants before proposals are submitted to ensure that all applications are well-structured, easy to understand and answer the questions posed by the awarding body. Reviewers should be able to easily tell school officials the intention of the grant, what the money will be spent on and how the project will significantly improve school security.

Best practices for securing school safety funding

Administrators and officials can use school security grant finder tools to locate available grant programs capable of meeting their needs and requirements. Though when it comes to registering for and formulating a final grant submission, there are a number of best practices that educators should follow, including:

Meeting administrative requirements

A typical school safety grant program will require school officials to register their organization with the US government’s System for Award Management (SAM) database. All entities applying for federal funding via Department of Justice school safety grants and Homeland Security grants for school safety must be actively registered in this system at the time of application, or their proposal will be automatically rejected. 

Officials must check with their chosen grant provider as to whether their application will require additional registration with a secondary administrative system such as Just Grants before submitting any proposals. 

Appointing a grant proposal team 

Formulating and developing a successful grant proposal will require school admins to collect and organize a large amount of relevant data presented in a clear and easily understood format. To avoid potential delays, missed deadlines and mistakes, specific roles should be allocated to trusted members of staff.

Important positions include:

  • Grant Advocate — This individual will be responsible for locating grant opportunities, identifying and voicing grant requirements and selecting who will manage the pre- and post-award processes.

  • Project Manager — The project manager must ensure all administrative and registration needs are met, coordinate stakeholders, compile Letters of Intent and oversee the proposal’s submittal.

  • Grant Writer — The grant writer will be tasked with developing a narrative for the proposal, collecting data to support this narrative and submitting the finalized grant application.

  • Post-Award Manager — This role will involve ensuring that all purchasing requirements and discussed project deliverables are met and reported in line with the grant program’s criteria.

Researching safe schools grants

Once educators have determined the needs they wish to address with grant funding and have developed a strategic process for pursuing and creating a comprehensive grant proposal, officials must begin their search for available grant programs with matching application criteria. Methods to achieve this include:

  • Grants Databases Free and fee-based databases can be used to search for new and existing grant programs that match the school’s search criteria. 

  • State Administering Agency — School officials can register directly with their State Administering Agency to receive updates regarding available state-funded grants for school security. 

  • Funding Source — All federal school security grants posted by federal agencies will be uploaded to the Grants​.gov online database. From here, admins can search for and apply to grant programs.

When searching for available grants, schools are advised to identify programs that match their specific needs. For example, if educators require funding only for security technology, grants offering to pay for personnel or training programs may not be appropriate. Additionally, eligibility requirements must be carefully considered as some grants may be closed to certain types of schools in specific locations.

Additional documentation

Public and private school security grants will typically be awarded to organizations that present a clear and comprehensive school safety planning model outlining the steps they will take to measurably improve security across the school district. To illustrate this, supporting documents should be prepared, including:

  • An emergency management plan

  • Site and risk assessments

  • Threat assessment procedures

  • Implemented training and drills

  • Action reports and assessments 

Creative tips for spending school safety grant program funds

Alongside traditional uses of school safety grants for school security cameras, access control systems and trained law-enforcement officers, K‑12 educators may wish to explore a number of creative ways to spend school security funding to maximize the value of their proposals and secure larger awards. Ideas include:

  • STEM programs — Grants such as ESSER funds for school security are focused on negating learning loss amongst students alongside improving on-site security, meaning funds can reasonably be spent on educational tools like robotics kits and lab equipment, as well as math and coding programs.

  • Vape detection sensors — Research suggests 1 in 10 K‑12 students use e‑cigarettes. Safe schools grants can be used to address this issue by installing specially designed sensors, or vape detectors, inside school properties to detect the use of vaping devices in the interest of health and safety measures.

  • Environmental sensors — Similar to vape detectors, a number of specialized sensor devices can be deployed to create automated early warning systems to alert staff of potentially harmful changes in air quality, the unexpected presence of a person in high-security areas, or loud noises that could be related to bullying or break-in attempts. 

  • Communication devices — Grants for school safety equipment can be used to purchase new communication devices like two-way radios for the purpose of improving incident and emergency responses by providing staff and school resource officers with a reliable way to communicate. 

  • Flexible classrooms — American Rescue Plan (ARP) schools can utilize grant funding to create modern learning spaces equipped with flexible seating arrangements, variable-height tables and other similar furniture upgrades to promote interaction and collaboration within school classrooms.

Get help with your school security grants 

Security and safety grants for schools can be used to help K‑12 school administrators secure funding for improvements to physical security systems, dedicated school resource officers, staff/​student training and, in some cases, technologies and equipment intended to improve learning resources and infrastructure. 

The application process for most state and federal school security grants will be highly competitive, so it’s important that school officials take the time to carefully consider the eligibility requirements for any grants they intend to pursue, ensure that their needs align with the criteria outlined by the awarding body and make sure that their final proposal is written in accordance with the authority’s RFP or NFA documents.

To achieve this, school officials should develop a well-documented plan and form a grant proposal team from trusted staff members, each tasked with upholding set duties and tasks. The Avigilon Grant Assistance program can help administrators and school security officials at any stage of the grants process. From initial research to find the most relevant school security grants, to reviewing proposals for school grant funding for video security solutions, the program is an excellent resource available at no cost to you. Get connected today to our third party grant experts for customized assistance to help you secure school security funding. 

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