House Dems education plan targets school violence

Monday, January 28, 2008 | 11:11 p.m. CST; updated 1:29 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House Democrats presented a plan Monday aimed at preventing crime in the state’s public schools.

“Probably if you ask a lot of Missourians, they’ll say, ‘I think my child’s school is safe,’” said Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall.

But Aull said people in Littleton, Colo.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Joplin, Mo.; and Blacksburg, Va., most likely felt the same way.

“Probably the folks in those institutions would have said that day, ‘I think our schools are safe,’” he said. “The point I’m trying to make is school tragedy can happen any time at any place.”

The bill would allocate $1.5 million to the state Education Department for a center for school safety and school violence prevention — expanding the existing program in order to serve the needs of every school district in the state, according to Aull.

Aull, who serves on the House Education Committee, said his bill presents a more proactive solution than the Safe Schools Act, which uses federal money to administer violence prevention programs in public schools.

“What we’re trying to do with this piece of legislation is deal with students before they get to be violent,” Aull said.

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, said this plan might sound good, but would likely be a waste of money.

“We all know when kids grow up they can be very cruel to each other,” he said. “Adults and teachers need to work to catch these problems early.”

Aull said that the center would house training and resources for issues like bullying, character education, peer mediation, fight intervention and Internet safety.

Robb, who also serves on the Education Committee, said legislating how children interact with each other presents an incredibly difficult problem.

“You don’t try to legislate morality,” he said. “Everyone knows these tragedies will happen. Bad people will always carry a gun.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by a spokeswoman for the state Public Safety Department.

“Not all of those things need legislation,” said the department’s spokeswoman, Terri Durdaller.

The department has had various panels examine safety issues involving schools and the Internet.

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