Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 23, 1999


The South Grounds

8:18 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Before I leave to go to the NATO Summit this morning, I'd like to say just a few more words about the tragedy in Littleton and the steps we're taking to make all our schools safer.

The images from Colorado have become painfully familiar -- the terrified children, the racing ambulances, the grieving families. We saw them last year, in Pearl, West Paducah, Jonesboro, Springfield. We were reminded again this week that none of our communities is immune to senseless violence.

Still, it is important to remember, and to remind our children, that the vast majority of our schools are safe. Nearly everywhere in America a child still is safer in school than anywhere else in the community.

But this week's tragedy reminds us again that one act of violence is one too many. We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of children; to help our young people express their anger and alienation with words, not weapons; to prevent violence from shattering the peace of our schoolyards.

I've spoken to our Attorney General Reno, who was at the scene yesterday to assist law enforcement in their investigation, and to offer comfort to the students and the families. I also talked with Dr. DeStefano on the school board last evening for a few minutes to share some thoughts with them and to express my appreciation to them for their efforts.

The Justice Department today will make $1.5 million from our crime victims trust fund available to help the communities assist the victims in their long journey toward recovery. And we will do more.

Last October, at our White House Conference on School Safety, I launched a new initiative to bring more of the same community policing that is doing so much to reduce crime on our streets to our schools. Today I'm pleased to announce the first of the grants funding these community police will be awarded to 336 schools and communities to help hire more than 600 police officers. Like their counterparts on the streets, these school officers will work closely with the citizens they serve -- with students, teachers and parents -- to improve campus security, to counsel troubled youth, to mediate conflicts before they escalate into violence.

I want to thank Senator Chuck Robb for his strong leadership on this issue. By the end of the year we hope to have 2,000 new officers in our schools and I encourage all communities to apply for these grants.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind communities that they have until June 1st to apply for the Federal Safe Schools-Healthy Students funds, to help them put in place comprehensive violence prevention programs. Those of you who were with me yesterday in Alexandria at T.C. Williams High School know how important the students there believe such a program is. These funds can be used for everything from establishing conflict resolution groups to hiring more mental health counselors, to establishing new mentoring programs, to installing metal detectors and other security equipment.

By taking actions to prevent future acts of violence in our schools we can best honor the memories of those who lost their lives.

Thank you very much.

Q Mr. President, you didn't mention gun control. Are you going to do more on gun control?

Q To be clear, sir, do all hostilities in Kosovo have to end before there can be consideration of ground troops, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I know you understand I've got to run over there and meet all the people that are coming. We will have more legislative initiatives to announce in the days ahead. As I said a couple of days ago, we will have some legislative responses and efforts we have been working on for some time, actually.

On the other, I think that our conditions are clear. Thank you very much.

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