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April 22, 1999: A Dialogue on Preventing School Violence

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I think its important that, all over America, students and teachers have a chance to discuss their feelings about this. We are working to reach out to the country...and to do everything we can to minimize the chance that anything like this will happen again.

April 22, 1999

Today, in Alexandria, Virginia, President Clinton spoke with students and faculty of T.C. Williams High School about the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. The discussion was broadcast live into 12,000 schools nationwide by Channel 1, a classroom cable network. The President talked about ways of preventing school violence, such as the schools mediation program and other methods of conflict resolution.

Reassuring Americans in the Wake of Tragedy. The President reassured students and faculty that, in spite of the Littleton tragedy and the resulting concerns of students and parents, Americas schools are still among the safest place for children to be. Only about 10% of public schools report serious or violent crimes to their local police departments.

Asking Ourselves Difficult Questions. The President urged all Americans to examine what our responsibilities as individuals and as a society are in the cause and prevention of tragedies like the one in Colorado. He discussed the role of schools, parents, students, the government, and communities in helping to diminish acts of violence.

Encouraging Respect for Others. The President urged students to appreciate Americas diversity and support others who may feel disrespected or discriminated against: The tragedy, he said, is an opportunity for us to learn to lift other people up, and recognize the inherent dignity and worth of all individuals and all ethnic, religious and cultural groups.

Working to Keep Schools and Communities Safe. School safety continues to be a priority, and over the past few years, the Administration has taken the following measures to ensure that Americas schools remain safe:

  • Policies for zero tolerance for guns and drugs;
  • Putting new community police officers in schools where they are needed;
  • Supporting more counselors in schools;
  • Encouraging more after-school, mentoring, and conflict resolution programs; and
  • Assistance in implementing uniform or dress code policies.

Last years White House Conference on School Safety provided a valuable opportunity for Americans to learn ways to improve the safety of their schools and communities. At the Conference, the President issued an Annual Report on School Safety which was sent to every school in the nation, and was intended to give parents, principals, and policy makers an accurate, yearly snapshot of school crime and steps they can take to make their schools safer.

Responding to the Early Warning Signs of Troubled Youth. In August 1998, the Departments of Justice and Education released Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools. The guide provides schools and communities with information on how to identify the early warning signs and take steps to prevent and respond to school violence. Every school in the nation received a copy, and additional copies may be obtained through the Department of Education website.

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