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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 20, 1998
               Promoting Discipline and Safety in Schools
                             July 20, 1998

In his speech to the AFT today, President Clinton will discuss the importance of school discipline and safety to the nation. He will announce a White House Conference on School Safety and highlight some of the school safety policies promoted by the Administration -- school uniforms, tough truancy laws, community-based curfews, and zero tolerance for guns.

White House Conference on School Safety

National School Safety Day. The President will announce that he will chair a White House Conference on School Safety on October 15, 1998, which he will proclaim National School Safety Day. The Conference will include each of the communities affected by the recent wave of school shootings and be linked by satellite to schools across the country.

First Annual Report on School Safety. At the Conference, the President will issue the first Annual Report on School Safety, which will include: an analysis of all existing national school crime data and an overview of state and local school crime data; examples of schools and strategies that are successfully reducing school violence, drug use, and class disruption; actions that parents can take locally to combat school crime, including a local safety checklist; and resources available to schools and communities to help create safe, disciplined, and drug-free schools.

Promoting School Discipline

Spreading school uniform policies across the country. Since President Clinton highlighted school uniform policies in 1996, a growing number of schools have decided to require school uniforms. Among the schools to have adopted uniform policies are schools in some of the nation's largest school districts -- New York City, Dade County, San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, and Boston. In New York City alone, more than half a million elementary school students will be wearing uniforms by the fall of 1999.

Recent data from Long Beach, California suggest that these policies work. In the 1995-96 school year -- the third year school uniforms were required -- attendance at the Long Beach Unified School District K-8 schools reached the highest point ever recorded during the 17 years the district compiled these statistics. With excused absences for illness added in, attendance exceeded 99 percent. And between the 1993-94 school year (before uniforms were required) and the 1996-97 school year, total school crime dropped 76 percent.

Keeping kids off the street and in school. Community curfews, which the President also has highlighted, are designed to help keep children out of harm's way, enhance community safety, and give parents an important tool to impart discipline, respect, and rules. A recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that 276 of 347 cities surveyed -- or 80 percent -- had youth curfew laws, up from 70 percent in 1995.

Taking on truancy. In 1996, at the President's direction, the Education Department issued a guidebook to the 15,000 school districts across the nation, outlining the core components of a comprehensive truancy prevention policy and highlighting model initiatives. Since then, the Department has provided grants to local school districts to develop innovative truancy prevention programs of the kind described in its guidebook.

Enforcing zero tolerance for guns in schools

In October 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Gun-Free Schools Act and issued a Presidential Directive to enforce "zero tolerance" for guns in schools -- if a student brings a gun to school, that student will be expelled for a year. The Department of Education estimates that under this zero tolerance policy, 6,093 students were expelled from public schools for bringing a firearm to school during the 1996-97 school year.

Challenging Congress to Strengthen Public Schools

President Clinton will call on Congress again to support his efforts to improve and reform K-12 education. He will urge Congress to enact his proposals to reduce class size, modernize our schools, invest in technology, expand after-school learning opportunities, raise standards, and end social promotions. He also will advocate giving competency tests to teachers and refusing to hire or license individuals who fail those tests.