School violence conference helps put issue on political radar
From White House Correspondent Eileen O'ConnorOctober 15, 1998
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Violence in America's schools -- prevalent, tragic and the perfect political issue.
President Clinton hosted a White House conference on school violence Thursday, boasting about his efforts to procure new money for after-school programs designed to keep kids productive and off the streets.
"The budget agreement ... will double or more the after-school programs that keep young people safe after the bell rings," Clinton said.
The horror stories from various cities are numerous enough -- Jonesboro, Paducah, Pearl, Eugene. The mother of a victim of the school shootings in Jonesboro, Arkansas, provided her own moving testimony Thursday.
"Just three weeks ago in Topeka, Kansas, a 5-year-old brought a 9-millimeter handgun to a kindergarten class," said Suzanne Wilson. "The gun accidentally fired in a classroom filled with 20 students."
The youngster is just one of a million kids every year, mostly in grades six through 12, who bring a gun to school.
The Clinton administration is touting prevention though public education, anti-violence programs and after-school care. Some Democratic candidates this fall are running on those policies.
But on the campaign trial, some Republicans are accusing their Democratic opponents of not being tough enough on juvenile offenders. GOP candidates are pushing measures to try youths who commit serious crimes as adults.
For all the talk of scandal in Washington, the most recent CNN/USA Today poll shows that voters' top priority in the coming election is education. The No. 2 issue is crime. School violence, then, is the kind of issue politicians know Americans care about.
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