Panel probing school shootings finds no easy solutions
May 21, 1998
Web posted at: 11:06 p.m. EDT (0306 GMT)
From Justice Department Correspondent Pierre Thomas
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After a schoolyard shooting in Jonesboro,
Arkansas, shocked the nation in March, Attorney General Janet
Reno convened a panel of experts, at the behest of President
Clinton, to look at ways to prevent similar tragedies.
The panel, with officials from education and law enforcement,
has met twice, including once with Clinton. Participant
Dennis Kenney, director of research for the Police Executive
Research Forum, said panelists discussed a variety of
solutions -- "after-school programs, mental health
counseling, student problem solving."
But what they all quickly realized was the sobering truth
that there are no quick solutions -- no cookie-cutter
federal program likely to solve what appear to be localized
And as the string of school shootings has continued beyond
Jonesboro, one question the panel is wrestling with is
whether troubled kids may be mimicking earlier shooting
"One thing that came up in the session ... is whether or not
there is some type of copycat phenomenon," White House
spokesman Mike McCurry said. "We don't know the answer to
that. We don't know enough about this incident today [in
Oregon] to know what is suggested by way of motive."
While most U.S. schools are safe, a recent study by the U.S.
Department of Education revealed some troubling signs.
Ten percent of the nation's schools reported one or more
violent crimes in the 1996-1997 school year, including
murder, suicide, rape, robbery and fights involving weapons.
Some experts believe that what's been happening in schools is
simply a spillover of the larger societal problem of juvenile
"We've surveyed teachers and students in schools all over the
country -- in small schools, big schools and rural schools --
and we get significant levels of teacher concerns and student
fears," said John Firman, director of research for the
International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Juvenile crime began climbing in 1987 and has fallen only in
the last two years. Still, some experts say the numbers
remain intolerably high.
In 1996, nearly 93,000 juveniles were charged in violent
crimes -- a number 60 percent higher than a decade ago. In
1996 alone, more than 2,000 juveniles were charged with