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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 15, 1998
                           October 15, 1998

The White House Conference on School Safety. Although schools are generally safer today than they were just a few years ago -- and statistics show that students are safer sitting in a classroom than walking down a street -- there is still much more that we can do to improve school safety and security. In particular, the multiple shootings that took place in schools in Pearl, MS, Paducah, KY, Jonesboro, AK, and Springfield, OR, serve as painful reminders that no community is immune from senseless violence -- and that all communities must do their best to prevent such tragedies from ever occurring. The White House Conference on School Safety provides an opportunity for Americans to learn more about how they can make their own schools and communities safer.

The First Annual Report on School Safety. At the conference, the President will discuss the findings of first Annual Report on School Safety -- a report intended to give parents, principals and policy makers an accurate, yearly snapshot of the school crime, as well as to provide information on what practical steps they can take to make their schools safer.

Major Findings of the Report:

Students less likely to be victimized but more likely to feel unsafe. Although the number of multiple homicide events at schools has increased since 1993 (from 2 to 6 -- and with 4 times as many victims), the overall school crime rate has actually dropped (from 164 crimes per 1,000 students in 1993 to about 128 such crimes in 1996). However, the percentage of students reporting that they felt unsafe at or on their way to school has increased.

Most schools safer than community at large. While the overall level of school and non-school crime is about the same (about 3 million crimes in each setting), students are more than twice as likely to experience serious violent crime while out of school. And the very worst violent victimizations -- murders and suicides

Serious crime and violence concentrated in a small percentage of schools. Only about 10% of public schools report serious or violent crimes to their local police departments. Nearly half -- or 47% -- of schools report less serious or non-violent crimes to police, and 43% report absolutely no crimes at all.

Violence more likely in larger, urban schools and with older students. One third of large schools (1,000+ students) report serious violent crimes to police, compared with less than one tenth of small schools. Also urban schools are twice as likely as rural schools to report serious violent crimes, and middle and high schools are 4 times more likely than elementary schools to report such crimes.

Fist fights and theft the most common crimes. Overall, physical attacks and fights without weapons are the crimes most often reported to police by middle and high schools. Theft is the most common school crime overall. In 1996, less than 10% of crimes against students were of a serious or violent nature.

Other Important Findings:

Fewer weapons in schools. About 6% of high school seniors -- less than in recent years -- are carrying firearms and other weapons to schools. Also, the percentage of seniors intentionally injured -- with or without weapons -- has not changed significantly over the past 20 years.

Gang presence nearly doubled. Between 1989 and 1995, the percentage of students reporting the presence of street gangs in their schools increased from 15% to 28% -- including large increases at urban, suburban and rural schools.

Violence and drugs linked. Students who reported being the victims of violent crimes at schools were more likely to report the availability of drugs at school. The presence of gangs and guns is also related to school crime and the victimization of students.

Teachers often crime victims. On average, 3% of teachers are the victims of violent crimes, and nearly 5% are the victims of theft at school.

The President's Call to Action. During a panel discussion with a group of recognized school safety advocates and youth violence experts, the President will announce a series of new initiatives that address many of the problems identified in the Annual Report on School Safety. Specifically, he will propose:

(1) A New Federal Response for Violent Deaths in Schools. President Clinton will propose a $12 million School Emergency Response to Violence -- or Project SERV -- to help schools and local communities respond to school-related violent deaths, such as those that occurred last year in Jonesboro, Arkansas; Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; and Springfield, Oregon. Developed with input from local officials and educators in these and other communities, Project SERV will enable the federal government to assist local communities in much the same way FEMA assists in response to natural disasters.

(2) Targeted Resources for Schools with Serious Crime Problems. To help give the estimated 10% of schools with serious crime problems the tools they need to put the security of our children first, the President will announce a new $65 million initiative to hire up to 2,000 community police and School Resource Officers to work in schools -- and to train police, educators and other members of the community to help recognize the early warning signs of violence.

(3) Reforms to Help Make All Schools Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free. President Clinton will announce his plan for a significant overhaul of the nearly $600 million Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program. Under the President's proposal, schools will be required to adopt rigorous, comprehensive school safety plans that include: tough, but fair, discipline policies; safe passage to and from schools; effective drug and violence policies and programs; annual school safety and drug use report cards; links to after school programs; efforts to involve parents; and crisis management plans.

(4) A Community-Wide Response to School Safety and Youth Violence. To help communities throughout the country promote a coordinated, comprehensive response to school safety, the President will launch a new Safe Schools -- Safe Communities initiative designed to help 10 cities develop and implement community-wide school safety plans. A minimum of $25 million in discretionary grants from the Departments of Education, Justice and Health and Human Services -- or $1-3 million per site -- will be made available for this initiative.

The President will announce a partnership with MTV to engage youth in solutions to violence. He will announce that MTV, beginning in 1999, will launch a year-long media campaign -- "Fight For Your Rights: Take A Stand Against Youth Violence" -- designed to give young adults a voice in the national debate on school and youth violence. Working with the Departments of Education and Justice, and the National Endowment for the Arts, MTV will distribute a Youth Action Guide that aims to engage youth in mentoring and other positive solutions to violence. The guide will be made available through a 1-800 number at the Justice Department and through MTV.