REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON SCHOOL SAFETY
October 15, 1998
The East Room
10:30 A.M. EDT
MRS. CLINTON: Good morning and welcome to the White House. We are delighted
to have all of you here to begin this important national conference on school
safety and youth violence.
We're here because we believe that every child in America deserves to grow up
in homes and communities free from fear and violence, and to attend a safe,
orderly school where he or she can learn and flourish. We've come together today
after a lot of hard work by many, many people around our country, as well as
in our government, to help make that vision a reality.
I'm glad to see so many of you here today who contribute to the safety and well
being of our children -- parents and teachers, law enforcement officials, religious
leaders, elected officials, heads of youth organizations, counselors, child
advocates and young people. I also welcome those who are participating in this
event by way of satellite. There are over 650 down-linked sites in communities
nationwide. And we're also being cybercast on the Internet. I'm heartened that
so many of you have joined us here today, because to be successful we must reach
out and get our message out and mobilize communities beyond these walls and
this White House.
This year, the words "children," "guns" and "death"
were tragically linked in our national consciousness. Shootings in schools across
the country -- from Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Springfield, Oregon -- refocused
our attention on the problem of youth violence and brought us together in national
mourning and grief. These terrible events also left us asking over and over
again how could this have happened, what does it mean, what can we do about
the countless acts of violence that occur in our nation every day and that affect
our children in communities, in their homes, on their streets and in their schools.
We know that this conference cannot find all the answers or solutions; but we
can make significant headway by listening to those on the front lines about
the many challenges we face and by learning to work more effectively together.
Today we will hear how critically important it is to get responsible adults
back into the lives of our young people and give our children positive alternatives
to violence and crime. We will also be reminded once again how schools so often
reflect the problems and needs of the neighborhoods around them and how we must
develop comprehensive school safety plans that engage the broader community.
We have a busy day ahead and I know that there have already been some very stimulating
workshops earlier this morning that many of the participants here in the White
House participated in. And now conference panelists will build on existing knowledge
about the problems of young people and violence. You've already looked at some
of the root causes of youth violence and at some of the early warning signals
of violent behavior.
In this first plenary panel we are pleased to be joined by the Attorney General,
Janet Reno, and the Secretary of Education, Dick Riley; as well as three people
who have firsthand experience and expertise about the problems we're discussing
today: Suzann Wilson, Marlene Wong and Paul Kingery. We will look in-depth
about the challenges from the recent incidents of violence in our schools,
to the more familiar problems of guns, drugs and gangs. And we will also talk
about what happens in the early years of a child's life that may in some way
direct that child more toward violence and what we can do to help break the
cycle of violence in families and communities.
After lunch, the President will lead a discussion about solutions and will
unveil new initiatives that we believe will help address the problems of youth
violence. And the panelists will talk about successful strategies, from community
policing to mentoring, that are making a real difference across our country.
At the third and final conference panel later this afternoon, community leaders
and legislators will highlight some of the nations most effective programs
that are helping to lower juvenile crime and delinquency. And we will look
at how entire communities have developed comprehensive intervention and prevention
strategies that not only cut youth violence but also lower dropout rates,
teen pregnancy rates, and arrests for possession of drugs and weapons.
The President has also said there are no problems facing America that haven't
been solved already somewhere in America. And we have seen firsthand how the
enforcement of laws, like zero tolerance for guns in schools, are combined
with prevention measures like art classes and after-school sports and tutoring,
and that together they help keep our children in school, off of drugs and
out of trouble.
But sometimes the word doesn't spread. A successful program in one city may
not be known about across the country. And part of our goal today is to make
sure everyone concerned about these problems knows what is going on, so they
can seek out the help and the ideas and the assistance they need.
We're going to recognize the progress this country is making in creating safer
schools and communities. And we're going to highlight how it does make a difference
what political leadership does, whether it's at the national level with the
passage of anti-crime measures like the Brady law or the ban on assault weapons
that are keeping thousands of handguns and assault weapons out of the hands
of felons and fugitives and stalkers and away from children. And I'm delighted
that we're going to be joined today by Sarah and Jim Brady as well.
We've also funded 100,000 new police officers on the street, and we know the
effect of community policing and how it has helped to reduce crime -- but
not only decrease crime, but also create better networks of support within
communities between law enforcement and neighbors. The fact is that we know
works. We just have to get about the business of doing it, and we have to
learn from each other.
Too many of our children are not benefiting from what we know works, and I'm
delighted to see some of the mayors from our cities here today who have done
such great work in implementing effective anti-crime and anti-youth violence
measures. We have to do more than develop safe strategies. We have to teach
our children that guns won't earn you respect and that violence won't settle
an argument. And we have to give them a positive vision of their future.
So we're going to get started now, and we're going to see a short video, made
by MTV, that gives us a chance to hear from the people who are most affected
by violence in their lives, mainly our young people. So if you will, please
join me in watching this video.