At a summit on school safety sponsored by the federal government today, President Bush stressed the need for law-enforcement officers, educators, and others who work with children and youths across the country to exchange ideas on how to best prevent school violence. The purpose of the conference, the president said, “has got to be so we share information so we can save lives.”
In brief remarks, Mr. Bush expressed regret that recent deadly school shootings in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had made it necessary for him to call a national summit on school safety issues. “The violence we’re having in our schools is incredibly sad and it troubles a lot of folks, and it troubled me and Laura,” said the president, who was accompanied by first lady Laura Bush. “Rather than be upset, it’s best to be proactive.”
Mr. Bush listened for about 45 minutes to a recap by U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and selected panelists, about discussions earlier in the day on preventing violence, preparing schools and communities to be safer, and recovering from school violence.
The president did not give a speech at the event, which was held at the National 4-H Conference Center, just outside Washington. But he asked several questions of panelists.
Noticing ‘Warning Signs’
President Bush showed particular interest in finding ways to urge more teachers to report warning signs that individual youths are troubled after Marleen Wong, the director of crisis counseling and intervention services for the 727,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District, told him that students who want to harm others often also are depressed.
“Is it typical that a student who expresses the wish to die makes that clear to his or her peers?” the president asked.
Ms. Wong replied that a student who wants to harm himself or others shows signs that could be a warning to the people around him.
She praised Chiarasay E. “Chiara” Perkins, a senior at Walton Senior High School in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., and the president of a youth crime watch in her community, as having summarized those warning signs well on an earlier panel. At Ms. Spellings’ bidding, Ms. Perkins repeated them to the president.
“Some of the traits that are noticeable are changes in everyday habits,” the student said. “They start eating different, dressing different, carrying themselves in a different manner.”
“If a teacher were to notice those traits, is it typical that they would act on them?” Mr. Bush asked Ms. Wong.
“That varies around the country,” Ms. Wong said. “More and more people are paying attention because we’ve paid such a dear price for ignoring some of the warning signs.”
Of the three fatal shootings in recent weeks, the one in Cazenovia, Wis., was by a student. Those in Bailey, Colo., and Lancaster County, Pa., were both by adult intruders. Both those adults shot themselves in the incidents.