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Education Department will provide grants for HBCUs targeted by bomb threats

A graduation themed mural is seen in July 2021 on the Howard University campus in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin
A graduation themed mural is seen in July 2021 on the Howard University campus in Washington.

More than 30 historically black colleges and universities across the country have been targeted with bomb threats in the past three months, and the White House announced Wednesday that they'd be eligible for special Department of Education grants as a result.

"The bomb threats against HBCUs, particularly concentrated in Black History Month, constitute 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," Dietra Trent, who leads the White House's efforts to support HBCUs, wrote in a statement announcing the initiative.

The awards, which typically range between $50,000 and $150,000, are from Project SERV, which supports schools "that have experienced a violent or traumatic incident," the department said.

"It's tough enough to reopen and go to school during a pandemic, and to have this added on, it increased the level of anxiety and apprehension, and they're feeling it," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told All Things Considered.

He said the funds could be used to improve security or increase mental health resources.

Cardona noted that the move comes on top of previous funding increases to HBCUs by the Biden administration, including $5.8 billion in COVID-19 stimulus from the American Rescue Plan.

In February, the FBI said it was continuing to investigate the bomb threats, part of a series of threats targeting at least 57 academic and religious institutions. At least 31 different FBI field offices were involved in the investigation.

HBCU leaders have noted that the threats came at a time of particular political tension in the country on the subjects of racism and education.

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Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
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