The U.S. Department of Education, Health, Human Services, and Justice department’s announcement this week that they have awarded an $8,840,132 Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant to the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District to implement a comprehensive plan to lower the dropout rate at Washington Preparatory High School in South L.A..

The award, to be administered over the next four years, will allow the LAUSD to work in partnership with the County of L.A.’s public and mental health, sheriffs, probation, human relations, Children and Family Services, and juvenile justice agencies, to provide Washington High School students and their families with much needed services and activities to develop the skills and emotional resilience necessary to promote positive mental health and to create campuses and communities that are a safe, disciplined and drug-free.

Washington High School, located in Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke’s Second Supervisorial District, has one of the highest populations of students in foster care and probation programs.

According to figures released this week by state education officials, more than a third of LAUSD students (or 33.6 percent), dropped out of school during the 2006-07 school year, compared to about 24.2 percent of public school students statewide. The drop out rate for L.A. County was 27.8 percent, revealing a disturbingly high dropout rate for Latinos and African American students – as high as 41.6 for African American students and 30.3 percent among Latinos students.

“We realize the impact of non-productive influence and behavior on the academic performance of our students,” said Marguerite P. LaMotte, LAUSD Board Member who represents District 1. “We are pleased that Supervisor Burke’s office, in collaboration with Linda Del Cueto, Superintendent, Local District 8 and several others, was able to secure a grant to augment the efforts of Washington Prep and its feeder schools, law enforcement and social service agencies in the areas of safety, mental health and violence prevention.”