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October 19, 1999: Working To Combat Youth Violence

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"America will never have a better time to face its biggest problems; America will never have a better time to save all of its children. Why don't we, together, say that we're going to make America the safest big country in the world in the 21st century, starting with making our children safe."

President Bill Clinton
Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Today, at the Voices Against Violence conference at the US. Capitol, President Clinton spoke with over 350 teen leaders from across the country about key priorities for our nation's future. The President stressed the importance of passing a budget that invests in young people and makes education our first priority, and called on Congress to enact common-sense gun laws and long-overdue hate crimes legislation. The President also released the second Annual Report on School Safety and announced that the Justice Department will distribute multimedia toolkits on preventing youth violence.

Demanding a Budget That Invests in America's Future. In his address to teen leaders, President Clinton called on Congress to pass a budget that makes education America's number-one priority, with measures that:

  • add 100,000 teachers to reduce class size in the early grades;
  • fund critical education initiatives such as mentoring, after-school and summer school programs;
  • support school construction and modernization; and
  • invest in accountability to turn around failing schools.

Unveiling New Tools to Prevent School Violence. The President released the findings of the second Annual Report on School Safety a report that gives parents, principals, youth, and policy makers an overview of school crime and offers practical steps to make schools safer. Key findings include:

  • While homicides in school remain extremely rare, multiple victim school homicides have increased; .
  • Less than one percent of the total number of children nationwide who were murdered or committed suicide were killed at school;
  • Overall crime rates are down at school and away from school;
  • Serious violent crime at school comprises about ten percent of all school crime, and is on the decline;
  • Fewer students are carrying weapons to school and getting into fights; and
  • Minority students and younger students feel less safe than other students at school.

The President also announced that the Justice Department in partnership with MTV and the Department of Education will distribute 200,000 additional copies of a CD with an interactive conflict resolution program, and a Youth Action Guide on preventing youth violence. The guides and CDS will be sent to organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, juvenile justice agencies, and after-school programs.

Calling on Congress to Finish the Job on Guns and Hate Crimes. Six months after the tragedy at Columbine High School, the President reiterated the importance of passing common-sense gun legislation that would close the gun show loophole; require child safety locks for handguns; ban the importation of large- capacity ammunition clips; and bar violent juveniles from owning guns for life. The President also urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999, which would make it easier to prosecute crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin and expand coverage to include crimes based on sexual orientation, gender and disability.

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