NEA proposes $500 million plan to combat violence in nation's schools

January 15, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The National Education Association, responding to a dramatic increase in violence in the nation's schools, is proposing a $500 million initiative to retrain teachers, increase security and develop programs to detect and deal with problems before they occur.

At a news conference yesterday, the teachers' group said that violence has grown to critical proportions, reaching beyond urban public schools to suburban and rural campuses and into private institutions.

"Regardless of race, family income, region of the country -- no child in America today is immune to the fear or insulated from the possibility of random, indiscriminate, and senseless violence," NEA President Keith Geiger said. On a typical day, Mr. Geiger said, 100,000 students bring guns to school and 40 children are killed or injured by gunshots.

To address the worsening problem, the NEA is proposing that Congress approve legislation providing money for local school districts to train students and staff in crime prevention, employ security staffs and buy metal detectors.

The measure, which would authorize spending $100 million annually over five years, also would enable schools to develop programs to teach students about ethnic diversity and non-violent methods of resolving disputes.

As evidence of how desperately action is needed, NEA officials noted that so many children are dying in the tiny city of East Palo Alto in Northern California that a local school superintendent, Charlie Mae Knight, suggested recently that schools purchase life insurance for students to help pay burial costs.

Educators called for new approaches in middle schools and high schools to address the problems of youngsters who skip classes or are bored by school, or are themselves parents. The NEA, the nation's largest teachers' union, suggested that the problems could be addressed by such alternative methods as placing extremely disruptive students in their own educational programs and sharply reducing classroom student-teacher ratios.

"Alternative education is going to be much different than anyone thinks," Mr. Geiger said. "It's going to be one-on-one. It will be very, very expensive, but [crime] is more expensive." The NEA used similar reasoning in explaining the recommended $100 million annual expenditure, saying an estimated $200 million is spent a year on battling school crime and vandalism.

NEA officials said they have not yet found a sponsor for the proposed legislation, but they will push for support when Congress reconvenes after President-elect Bill Clinton takes office.

The NEA also re-asserted its support of the so-called Brady gun bill, defeated by a filibuster in the Senate last year. The Brady bill would impose a five-day waiting period on the sale of firearms to give authorities time to conduct background checks.

Parent and community involvement is crucial to the success of the proposed school violence legislation, Geiger emphasized.

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