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Anti-violence bill backed

June 25, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Eastern Panhandle school officials say they like the concept of proposed federal legislation aimed at keeping students who bring guns to school off the streets until they pass a psychological evaluation.

Tying compliance to federal education funding, the proposed measure would encourage states to pass laws requiring law enforcement authorities to hold students for up to 72 hours for psychological evaluation to ensure they're not a danger, according to U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, DW.Va., who introduced the bill this week.

Wise said he introduced the bill as part of his continuing effort to combat violence in schools.

The measure comes after a series of deadly shootings at schools across the country in recent months committed by students.

Two pupils were killed in an October 1997 incident in Pearl, Miss., and four students and a teacher were slain in December 1997, in West Paducah, Ky. Two students were killed by a 15-year-old in May in Springfield, Ore.

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"Like every parent, I want to make sure that school is as safe as possible," said Wise, who said he has two elementary school-aged children.

The effort includes holding a series of informative hearings on school violence around the state this summer and devoting part of his Internet Web site to the topic.

The purpose of the hearings is to bring teachers, administrators, parents and students together with law enforcement officials, pastors and others to discuss their concerns and what is being done to attack the school violence problem, he said.

Wise said his goal is to have a report complete before the start of the next school year summarizing what surfaced at the hearings and listing recommendations and steps that should be taken.

One of the hearings will be held in the Eastern Panhandle, he said.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent David Markoe said he thinks the proposed law and Wise's plan to hold hearings on the school violence problem are good ideas.

"Given what's happening across the United States with the incidents that have occurred, it's on a lot of people's minds," Markoe said.

The Jefferson County school system is putting together a committee of parents, educators, law enforcement officials and others from the community to update its plan for dealing with school violence, which was developed several years ago, he said.

Wise's bill is on the right track but should also apply to knives, said Gary Van Horn, director of secondary, adult and vocational education for the Morgan County school system.

"Knives can kill, and knives can inflict serious injury, and they're probably more readily available to kids," said Van Horn, who said Morgan has far more incidents of knives being brought to school than guns.

He said he likes the idea of holding students to determine their mental state.

"They need to be evaluated by someone who can tell us whether it's talk or something serious," Van Horn said.

Wise said he plans to share information from his hearings on his homepage at www.house.gov/wise/.

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