News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Federal Guide Helps Schools Evaluate Student Threats

Educators, police, mental-health professionals, and others, in order to help head off school shootings, should form teams specially trained to identify and deal with students who might use lethal violence.

For More Info
The threat- assessment guide and final report are available from the United States Secret Service. (Both require Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)
Information about the training seminars is also available.

That's one of the recommendations in a new federal "threat assessment" guide for schools, released last week by the Department of Education and the Secret Service. Officials unveiled the guide in Chicago during one of several one-day training sessions being held across the country to teach school personnel and law-enforcement officials strategies for gauging threats.

The guide and the training sessions follow a federal study of the thinking and behavior of 41 attackers involved in 37 incidents of deadly school violence between 1974 and 2000. ("U.S. Agencies Release Details From School Violence Research," May 22, 2002.)

In light of the study's finding that 80 percent of the gunmen had mentioned their plans to other students, the guide advises school officials to establish open lines of communication with students so they are less likely to view "telling" on peers as a betrayal.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Interest on Student Loans Falls Sharply

The interest rate on federal loans for college students is expected to plummet to 4.06 percent, the lowest rate since the 1960s. As a result, students and other borrowers potentially could save thousands of dollars on their postcollege debts.

Beginning July 1, the interest rate will fall from the current 5.99 percent, according to the Department of Education. The government estimates that a borrower with $10,000 in student debt and a 10-year schedule of repayments would save about $1,133 over the life of the loans.

Interest rates on student loans are set through a formula based on short-term Treasury bills and additional percentages based on whether students are in school, out of school, or deferring payment. By law, the total interest rate on federally backed student loans cannot exceed 8.25 percent.

In recent months, public-policy researchers and political leaders in Washington have warned of the rising cost of college and argued that federal student aid—particularly Pell Grants, which help low-income students—has failed to keep up.

—Sean Cavanagh

First Lady Hosts Library Experts

First lady Laura Bush announced during a White House conference on school libraries last week that more than $5 million has been pledged to her Foundation for America's Libraries.

Mrs. Bush started the foundation a year ago to buy books for the country's school libraries, particularly those in inner cities and rural areas. The June 4 event brought librarians, researchers, and school administrators together to highlight the importance of libraries to student achievement.

In remarks during the event, Mrs. Bush said that as a child, one of her most prized possessions was her Midland, Texas, public library card. "The card was my passport to visit a little house on the prairie, sail across the ocean on a whaling ship, or travel back in time," she said. "These childhood adventures are not mine alone. They belong to any child who has the chance to browse a library's bookshelves."

—Michelle R. Davis

Agency Hires Public-Affairs Head

The Department of Education has hired John Gibbons as its director of public affairs. In that capacity, Mr. Gibbons supervises a team that provides information to the public and the press.

Mr. Gibbons, who started his job in May, has years of experience in the federal public-affairs world.

Before moving back to public service this year, Mr. Gibbons had worked in Washington for the communications-consulting firm Burson-Marsteller in health care and new- business development, but he's held a long list of government positions in the past. His government service includes heading the public-affairs office at the Department of Health and Human Services and serving as the deputy director of public affairs at the Department of Commerce, both during the first Bush administration.

Early in his career, Mr. Gibbons worked on then-Vice President George Bush's staff, organizing: overseas trips that took the current president's father to 74 countries. Before his recent move to the Education Department, Mr. Gibbons worked briefly in the press office at the Pentagon.

—Michelle R. Davis

Vol. 21, Issue 40, Page 30

Published in Print: June 12, 2002, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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