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Bush Hosts School Safety Summit

President Bush, lamenting an "incredibly sad" wave of deadly school shootings, challenged the United States on Tuesday to turn its remorse into action to keep school children safe.

At the final session of a conference on preventing and responding to school violence, Mr. Bush said that he's sorry there was a need to hold such a conference, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

"In many ways, I'm sorry we're having this meeting," Mr. Bush said. "In other ways, I know how important it is that we're having this meeting."

Mr. Bush called experts together for a meeting in the Maryland suburbs after shootings at schools in Wisconsin, Colorado and Pennsylvania. In panel discussions led by members of his Cabinet, speakers said the best response is basic: Get parents, school leaders, students and police to work together.

"All of us in this country want our classrooms to be gentle places of learning — places where people not only learn the basics — basic skills necessary to become productive citizens — but learn to relate to one another," Mr. Bush said. "Our parents, I know, want to be able to send their child or children to schools that are safe places."

He said the recent wave of violence "troubles a lot of folks."

Safety specialists at the gathering said that more than metal detectors or security cameras, the key to halting school violence is communication.

"Our first line of prevention is really having good intelligence," Delbert Elliott, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence in Boulder, Colo., told participants.

Because kids who plot violence often boast about it, said Elliott, schools must create a culture that encourages students to come forward with tips.

In fact, a recent government study of deadly school violence found in the vast majority of the cases at least one other student not involved in the plot knew about it ahead of time, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports. In most cases, at least two knew.

Last month, for example, an attack was thwarted at Green Bay's East High School after a student walked into the associate principal's office and told him some classmates were planning a Columbine style massacre, Bowers reports.

"I did not do it for fame. I did it because I feared for the lives of my fellow students and the staff at East High school," the student, Matt Atkinson, said.

Later that day, police were seen carrying boxes from one of the suspect's homes, boxes they say contained homemade bombs, guns, and ammunition.

Meanwhile, opening the conference, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said it is crucial that school systems have a crisis response plan.

Four weeks before the midterm elections, the event allows Mr. Bush to return to the politically safe issue of education and child safety. But the federal role in making schools safer is limited because education remains mainly a local matter.

William Lassiter, manager of the Center for the Prevention of School Violence, questioned the Bush's administration attempt to cut $347 million in school-safety grants for states this year. Bush's budget says the program is ineffective.

The White House says that beyond those state grants, the government spends larger amounts on successful school safety programs through its education, justice and health agencies.

Some Democrats, Rep. Anthony Weiner among them, said the situation requires more than talk, Knoller reports. "Having a White House conference is fine, but eliminating programs that work is going to create more problems," said Weiner, D-N.Y.

Nevertheless, there is no pattern to deadly shootings at schools.

In the 2005-06 school year, 15 people were killed in school-related shootings, said Kenneth Trump, a national school safety expert who tracks violence data. That number of school-shooting deaths has ranged from three to 24 in recent years, Trump's records show.

In the last two weeks, a gunman killed himself and five girls at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, and a 15-year-old Wisconsin student shot and killed his principal.

Fred Wegener, a Park County, Colo., sheriff, described responding two weeks ago when a man held several girls hostage in a school before killing one and himself.

"I still think we had a safe school," Wegener said. "I think it is just one of those times when an individual was able to get in."

His story drew the room silent. "We're not supposed to lose our kids at school," he said.