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July 20, 1998

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Our progress will come to nothing if our schools are not safe places, orderly places, where teachers can teach and children can learn. We also know that in too many American schools, there is lawlessness where there should be learning. There is chaos where there should be calm. There is disorder where there should be discipline. Make no mistake, this is a threat not only to our classrooms, but to America's public school system and, indeed, to the strength and vitality of our nation.

President Bill Clinton
July 20, 1998

Today, President Clinton delivers an address to the American Federation of Teachers on the importance of school discipline and safety. The President will announce that he will hold a Conference on School Safety at the White House and renew his challenge for Congress to support his efforts to improve and reform education by reducing class size, investing in technology, expanding after-school learning opportunities, raising standards, and ending social promotion.

A Presidential Commitment To School Safety. For over five years, the President has worked to make schools safer, raise educational standards, and extend the opportunities a quality education can bring to every child. President Clinton has:

  • Encouraged school districts to adopt school uniform policies to improve student discipline and attendance;
  • Directed the Secretary of Education and the Attorney General to develop a guide to help teachers and principals identify and respond to the early warning signs of troubled youth;
  • Announced funding for a new community policing program through the Department of Justice to reduce violence at or near school grounds;
  • Called on states to promote gun safety and responsibility by passing Child Access Prevention laws that hold adults responsible if they allow children easy access to loaded firearms.

The White House Conference On School Safety. A return to order in the classroom is essential to renewing education in our country and ensuring that our children are prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century. President Clinton will host a White House Conference on School Safety on October 15, 1998 that will be linked by satellite to schools across the country and include representatives of the communities affected by the recent wave of school shootings. The Conference will be linked by satellite to schools across the country. During the Conference, the President will issue the First Annual Report on School Safety, which will include:

  • An analysis of all existing national school crime data and an overview of state and local school crime data;
  • Examples of schools and strategies that are successfully reducing school violence, drug use, and class disruption;
  • Actions parents can take locally to combat school crime;
  • Resources available to schools and communities to help create safe, disciplined, and drug-free schools.

Teachers And Students Are Concerned About Disruption In The Classroom. If we are to properly educate our children, we must ensure that the classroom and school environment where they learn is conducive to studying. The President's commitment to improving safety and strengthening discipline in our schools is supported by recent surveys, which show that:

  • 81 percent of teachers said that the worst-behaved students receive the most attention in the classroom;
  • 71 percent of all high school students said there were too many disruptive students in their classes;
  • Only 13 percent of public school students said their classmates were "very respectful" of teachers.

Challenging Congress To Strengthen Public Schools. President Clinton is calling on Congress to support his efforts to improve and reform K-12 education by enacting legislation to reduce class sizes, modernize our schools, invest in technology, expand after-school learning opportunities, end social promotion, raise teacher and student standards, help states strengthen teacher preparation programs and provide incentives for well-prepared individuals to teach in public schools.

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