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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Atlanta, Georgia)
For Immediate Release                                     April 15, 2000
                             TO THE NATION

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. As we prepare next week to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine High School, our thoughts turn to the safety of our communities, schools, and children. All of us -- parents, schools, communities, and government -- share responsibility to keep kids safe. We've all got to do our part. This morning, I want to talk about three steps our administration is taking to support school and community efforts to prevent youth violence.

We know the best approach to the problem of youth violence is a comprehensive one. That means students and parents, teachers and police officers, judges, counselors and religious leaders all working together. That's why we created the Safe Schools Healthy Students Initiative, to find and fund the best local ideas for preventing youth violence. Today I am announcing $40 million in new grants for 23 school districts that have come up with innovative and successful strategies to reach out to troubled young people. These districts are bringing school nurses and counselors together to respond to warning signs like depression or bullying. They are improving classroom security and expanding after-school and mentoring programs. From little Arkansas towns to big California cities, they're making a difference in the lives of our children and our communities.

Second, I am announcing new grants under our COPS in Schools initiative, providing more than $60 million for police officers to work in schools in more than 220 communities. The vast majority of our schools are safe places for our kids to learn. But any violent incident is one too many. These initiatives help to hire and train school resource officers to be a real part of kids' daily lives -- using the community policing strategies that have made neighborhoods safer all over America. Already it has placed 2,200 officers in more than 1,000 communities across our nation, where they are heightening school safety as well as coaching sports and acting as mentors and mediators for kids in need.

Third, I am announcing a new initiative to support counseling programs for elementary schools. The Department of Education has set aside $20 million to fund local grant proposals, because we have seen all too clearly that even our youngest children sometimes need our help. When I was Governor of Arkansas, Hillary and I helped our state to become the first state in America to mandate counselors for schools, elementary schools. We want to help all of our elementary schools who are willing to have the same sort of support.

Here at the White House, I've created a Council on Youth Violence to coordinate the work of the federal agencies. We know the key to all of our success, however, is leadership in the community, at the grass roots. Last year, I challenged Americans from community organizations, the media, business and all walks of life to mobilize against youth violence. The result was the National Campaign Against Youth Violence, working to bring together a cross-section of citizens to keep our children safe.

Just this week in Memphis, the National Campaign kicked off a nationwide initiative to put the resources of business in the service of safer, stronger communities. They'll visit 15 cities and sponsor town meetings and media events, mobilize young people, school officials, business and religious leaders. And in every city, the National Campaign will remind each of us of our responsibility to do all we can to keep America's children safer.

Those of us who are parents have perhaps the greatest responsibility. We need to talk about safety and security in every house in America -- beginning in the White House. That's why Hillary and I are sponsoring a White House Conference on Teenagers next month. We'll invite parents and teens, experts and educators to talk through the challenges of raising responsible children, and the opportunities we all have to help our young people make the most of their lives.

The great American author and champion of human rights, Pearl Buck, once said, "If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all." In our national struggle against youth violence, we must not fail our children. Our future depends on it.

Thanks for listening.