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Bush administration planning conference on school violence

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STOCKTON, California (AP) -- President George W. Bush said Tuesday he was "saddened and deeply concerned" about the recent string of violence in schools, including the deadly shooting in an Amish schoolhouse that killed five girls.

He said Americans have a responsibility to protect their children.

"Our school children should never fear their safety when they enter into a classroom," Bush said.

"Laura and I were saddened and deeply concerned, like a lot of citizens around the country, about the school shootings that took place in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wisconsin. We grieve with the parents and we share the concerns of those who worry about safety in schools," Bush said.

The president spoke in a courtyard of the George W. Bush Elementary School. Inside, he visited young children practicing their reading in the school library named after his wife, Laura. The school has 858 students in grades kindergarten through seventh grade.

The Bush administration plans to bring education and law enforcement experts together for a conference on coming to grips with the problem and discuss federal action that can help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.

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 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.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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