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Summit generates ideas to make Ill. schools safer

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm •  Published: January 22, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn, school administrators and mental health and public safety experts said Tuesday that they left a school safety summit with pages of ideas, including improving resources for mental health and encouraging students to speak up if they hear about potential threats.

"We want to educate all of those who come through the school building, including the students, that being silent about potential violence is a very dangerous thing," Quinn said at a news conference after the summit.

More than 50 people gathered at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in response to a call from the governor following last month's Connecticut school shooting. He said that shooting and one in a Colorado movie theater last year served as an "alarm bell."

Quinn described the summit as an early step in an ongoing conversation to find measures that could prevent violent episodes in schools. Quinn cited existing efforts in communities across the state that could be adopted by other towns. In the suburban Chicago community of Berwyn, the governor said, teachers and school staffers receive training regarding violence in the classroom.

"If there are any problems of violence such as bullying, hazing going on, we have to address those. We cannot look the other way," he said.

Quinn also said he will be looking into whether adequate mental health services are available to educators and students to prevent violence.

Quinn said some of the ideas discussed at Tuesday's summit may lead to legislation and that the topic also is likely to come up in his State of the State address next month.

He didn't delve into specifics, but he said districts could make the decision about whether to implement some initiatives, while others could be adopted statewide. He said implementing some measures in all of the state's 870 public school districts could be challenging.

Information sharing between schools and law enforcement authorities was a key point discussed at the meeting.

Downers Grove Police Chief Robert Porter, the acting president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said attendees discussed how and when educators, mental health professional and authorities must communicate about red flags raised by community members that could end in an outburst of violence.

Quinn, a proponent of a statewide ban on assault weapons, did not mention gun control in his remarks after the meeting. When asked why members of the National Rifle Association did not attend the summit, he said the invitation to the meeting was only for people in the education and public safety fields. He added that he would be "happy to listen" to ideas from the group.

"Anybody in a democracy has a voice," Quinn said.


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