By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Historically Black colleges and universities victimized by recent bomb threats are now eligible for federal grants under a program designed to help improve campus security and provide mental health resources, Vice President Kamala Harris was set to announce Wednesday.
A day after her husband tested positive for COVID-19, Harris was set to appear with Attorney General Merrick Garland, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Homeland Security Deputy Secretary John Tien to discuss public safety across the United States.
The vice president was expected to announce that historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, that were victimized by a spate of recent bomb threats can now apply for grant funding under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence program at the U.S. Education Department to improve campus security and provide mental health resources.
At least 36 historically Black colleges and universities, more than one-third of the 101 HBCUs in the United States, have been targeted with bomb threats since January 2022, according to the House Oversight Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on the matter.
More than a dozen of these schools were targeted in February, which was Black History Month. No devices were found at the institutions that were threatened.
The FBI is investigating the threats as “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”
Harris will make clear that people should be able to learn, work, worship and gather without fear, the White House said in previewing the event. She also will discuss spikes in violence and hate against Jewish, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ communities.
Last March, Harris and President Joe Biden visited Atlanta after the fatal shootings of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at area spas. Wednesday is the anniversary of those killings.
Biden marked the anniversary by saying the killings “underscored how far we have to go” to fight racism, misogyny and all forms of hate, as well as gun violence.
“On this somber anniversary, my administration remains fully committed to advancing safety, inclusion, and belonging for all Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders — especially the women and girls who disproportionately bear the burdens of hate — and to reducing the gun violence that terrorizes our communities,” Biden said in a written statement.
The Project SERV grant program provides short-term immediate funding for local educational agencies and institutions of higher education that have suffered violence or trauma to help restore a safe environment for learning and address mental health needs, according to the Education Department. Awards typically range from $50,000 to $150,000 per school.
Dietra Trent, executive director of the White House initiative on historically Black colleges and universities, said the threats, particularly during Black History Month, were a “uniquely traumatic event” given the history of bombings as a tool to intimidate and provoke fear during the American civil rights movement.
“In this context, even the threat of bombings at HBCUs can have a deep and unsettling impact on students, faculty, and staff that significantly disrupts the learning environment,” Trent said in a statement.
After the White House announced husband Doug Emhoff’s positive COVID-19 result on Tuesday, Harris tweeted that he was doing fine and that she had tested negative and would continue to be tested. She later skipped a previously scheduled Tuesday evening appearance with Biden.