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Clinton unveils national guide on school violence

Program designed to help identify troubled kids

August 27, 1998
Web posted at: 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT)
A student is screened with a metal detector  

WORCESTER, Massachusetts (CNN) -- In an effort to stem the recent rash of school shootings that have shocked the nation, President Clinton on Thursday unveiled an early warning guide designed to help schools identify troubled students.

"This year, a new report showed that the overwhelming majority of our schools are, in fact, safe. But it's not enough, as we know from the recent rash of killing in schools all over the country," Clinton said.

The guide, prepared by the Justice and Education departments, gives teachers a list of early warning signs to look for as well as ways to get help for troubled students.

The most common warning signs, according to the guide, include uncontrolled anger, a background of drug and alcohol abuse and a preoccupation with weapons and explosives.

More often than not, students who commit acts of violence are loners who feel they've been "pushed out of being part of the community, of the school," said school psychologist Kevin Dwyer, who helped design the guide.

Other indicators include students who habitually make threats and those who have been in trouble in the past.

"The most significant fact is that nearly 90 percent of these individuals had first brought a weapon to school," said Ron Stephens, executive director of the National Safe Schools Center.

Early detection and counseling

The guide stresses that early detection and counseling are the best ways to avert disaster.


"Too frequently, we wait until the kid becomes 13, 14 years old and then does something very, very aggressive before we begin to serve the child," Dwyer said, "and that is too late ... sometimes too little, too late."

Teachers and parents are urged to try and cultivate close relationships with students who feel alienated.

"A positive relationship with an adult who is available to provide support when needed is one of the most critical factors in preventing school violence." the guide says.

The guide's publication comes just three months after the most recent school shooting in Springfield, Oregon, where a 15-year-old student allegedly killed two classmates and his parents and wounded 24 others.

Just two months earlier, two students in Jonesboro, Arkansas, shot four classmates and a teacher to death after setting off the school's fire alarm.

Correspondent Tony Clark and Reuters contributed to this report.

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