RENO, Nev. – The Bush administration, alarmed by recent attacks at public schools across the country, is bringing education and law enforcement experts together for a conference on coming to grips with the problem.
The goal would be to discuss the nature of the problem and federal action that can help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters as President Bush made a campaign tour here Monday.
Three schools have been hit by deadly attacks in the past week. A gunman killed himself and five girls Monday at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania; on Friday a 15-year-old Wisconsin student shot and killed his principal; and last Wednesday a man took six girls hostage in Colorado, sexually assaulting them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.
"The president is deeply saddened and troubled by the recent school violence and shootings that have taken place in different communities across America," Perino said. "It breaks America's collective heart when innocent children who are at school to learn are violently taken hostage and cut down in their own schools."
Perino said the conference was still in the planning stages, so a specific date, location and other details were not ready to be announced. It was not clear whether President Bush would attend.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Bush's domestic policy adviser, Karl Zinsmeister, met Monday at the White House to discuss the conference. They met while the president was on a cross-country flight to begin a three-day fundraising trip for Republican candidates in the midterm election.
Perino said participants on the education side would include groups like the National Parent Teacher Association, school principals and teachers' unions. The Federal Bureau of Investigations would be among those representing law enforcement, she said.