House Dems lay out education plan
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House Dems lay out education plan

Date: January 28, 2008
By: Alex Lundy
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri House Democrats presented a plan Monday to prevent 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."

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.

The House Democrats' bill would allocate $1.5 million to the state Education Department to a center for school safety and school violence prevention.

"What we're trying to do with this piece of legislation is deal with students before they get to be violent," he 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.

A similar center already exists in Missouri that Aull said performs many of the functions oulined in the bill. He said the $1.5 million could go toward expanding the existing program in order to serve the needs of every school district in the state.

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 examining safety issues involving schools and the Internet.