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Quinn on school safety: 'A lot of work to do'

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Gov. Pat Quinn headed a school safety summit with more than 50 state representatives in education, mental health and public safety Tuesday afternoon in Springfield to discuss ways to prevent violence in Illinois schools.

"I really feel this is just the beginning," Quinn said after the meeting. "We have a lot of work to do."

The summit - following an initial conference call on school safety on Dec. 21, one week after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn. that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children - included representatives from the Illinois State Police, Illinois Board of Education, Illinois Department of Public Health, Chicago Teachers Union, and the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

While the governor did not detail any specific plans for taking on violence in schools, he mentioned providing enough resources for adequate mental health - something he called a "very, very important issue."

"We must identitfy causes of violence and make sure we address and do something about it and work together on it," he said. "And that oftentimes can involve situations where we use our school psychologists and those who are trained in the field of mental health to make sure we deal with any issue that might crop up."

Quinn also mentioned schools working closely with police as a step in the right direction. But he did not provide details, even as a school superintendent in Washington, Ill. near Peoria teamed up with the city's police chief earlier this month to look at arming high school administrators.

"The major focus today was safety within the school, preventing violence in the first place, protecting students and teachers," Quinn said. "We know how, I think, to work together for community and safety, particularly in our schools, and that's what we're going to be working on all year."

But Quinn made it clear he believes there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making schools safe and suggested that action may best be taken at the local level.

"I believe in local option," he said. "Everyday people of our state have common sense and they understand what's necessary for their town or their school districts. They'll take action where appropriate.

"We have 870 school districts in Illinois, public school districts. Folks are in different parts of Illinois. They're not all in the city or the suburb or a smaller town. So there are different approaches in different schools."

LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, agreed there is no single solution.

"I think it's kind of a multi-tiered approach," he said. "I think every locality is going to have to decide what's the proper mix for them in terms of decreasing violence in their context."

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