HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A major federal grant worth nearly $200,000 is headed to Texas Southern University to help improve campus safety and student security.
TSU is one of four historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, receiving this grant.
The issues of safety started in early 2022, as the pandemic was winding down, when at least 36 HBCUs were receiving bomb threats. At least 18 colleges were targeted on Feb. 1 alone, and experts say it was intentionally done on the first day of Black History Month.
Congress held hearings on what the federal government could do to help make campuses safer. The FBI also launched an investigation, calling the bomb threats against HBCUs "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes" and coming at a time when hate crimes and other acts of violence were on the rise. According to an FBI report, hate crimes against Black Americans rose by nearly 50% between 2019 and 2020.
The U.S. Department of Education announced that Project School Emergency Response to Violence, or SERV, would give the first grants to four HBCUs, including TSU, which were disrupted by threats.
"The bomb threats last year that targeted several historically Black colleges and universities traumatized their campus communities, disrupted learning, and drained resources by prompting costly campus lockdowns, class cancellations, and law enforcement activities," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said.
The grant will also be used to help students cope better.
"Our students will be able to receive mental health counseling, either via telehealth or in person, for up to six visits," Dr. Michell Penn-Marshall, the head of research and development at TSU, said. "They can receive services via their cell phone, so it can be in a very safe space. Maybe you don't want anyone to know that you're receiving this help. So, it's extremely important to their success to do everything that we can do academically, socially, in the mental health space."