The National Education Association (NEA), EchoStar Communications Corp., and Future View have announced a school safety partnership that will outfit school districts with free satellite dishes and safety-related programming to go with them.

Districts may apply for one of 1,000 satellite TV systems being donated by EchoStar’s DISH Network, a direct broadcast company. But don’t delay; the grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Headquartered in Littleton, Colo., EchoStar is just across town from Columbine High School, where in April two students went on a rampage that left 15 people dead, including themselves.

“As a Littleton-based company, we realize the importance of instituting educational programs geared toward promoting safe schools,” said Charlie Ergen, CEO and chairman of EchoStar. “(Our) donation of 1,000 satellite dishes and free air time makes it possible to beam educational programming about school safety directly to the doorsteps of schools across America.”

The partnership, dubbed the Safe Schools Broadcast Network, aims to reach not only schools, but also local education associations, religious institutions, law enforcement agencies, mental health services, community action organizations, and civil rights groups.

Under the program, NEA and the Learning First Alliance will develop programming to be broadcast to the 18-inch EchoStar Satellite Dish.

Future View, a communications company specializing in creative private networks, is donating its production facilities and staff hours for program development.

The unique private-public partnership caught the eye of President Clinton, who officially launched the program June 7 during a White House conference on mental health.

“I want to ask businesses and broadcasters all around our country to follow EchoStar’s lead and donate their time, expertise, and equipment to help ensure that every school district in America can participate in this important training program,” Clinton said.

The president also announced that Vice President Gore and his wife, Tipper, will kick off the first training session for the program this fall. The partnership has the support of the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The school safety programming will assist teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, and law enforcement officers in identifying early warning signs of potentially violent behavior in students.

Video content will include strategies for schools and communities to promote personal responsibility and respectful behavior among students, as well as ways to ensure a personal connection between each student and at least one responsible adult in the school community.

Other topics will touch on helping troubled students and on setting up common sense school security measures. Discussion guides will be provided for each program.

The NEA, which will administer the donation program, has invited school districts to apply for their satellite dish and air time.

According to the association, schools will be selected to represent a broad range of sizes, geographical locations, and socioeconomic make-up. The NEA adds that at least one school district from each state and the District of Columbia will be selected.

Because the goal of the Safe School Network is to build broad-based community coalitions, school districts must indicate at least four community-based organizations with which they’ll collaborate to make their environments safe.

There is no deadline for applications, but with the limited number of satellites available, school districts are recommended to act fairly quickly.

Districts that are chosen to receive the free satellite equipment will have the option of installing the system on their own or have an authorized EchoStar contractor do it for them at a cost of $350.

The EchoStar-backed installation includes alignment, up to 150 feet of RG-6 cable, up to 30 feet of ground wire, and connections to the digital receiver and to one television.

To apply, provide the following information on your district’s official stationery:

• Contact person, mailing address, telephone, fax number, and eMail (if available).

• Identify at least four school and community groups that will participate in the program.

• Describe your school-community safety concerns, needs, and hopes. Also explain how the NEA-EchoStar program might help.

• State where your district will locate the satellite, whether you will install the system yourself or pay the $350 installation fee, and who in your district will ensure the audience is able to receive the transmissions.

• Indicate your school district’s willingness to provide information for an evaluation of the program.

The application can be mailed or faxed to:

NEA-EchoStar Safe Schools Network

National Education Association

Human and Civil Rights

1201 Sixteenth St., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20036-3290

Fax: (202) 822-7578

Web: http://www.nea.org