Aug 31, 2022 - News

Arkansas School Safety Commission makes progress

Illustration of a pencil with security-style yellow and black stripes.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Arkansas' School Safety Commission met Tuesday for the 10th time since being reinstated by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in June.

What happened: After hearing concerns and experiences from four parents living across the state, the group unanimously adopted several tactics to include in its final report, due in October.

State of play: Hutchinson signed a bill earlier this month earmarking $50 million for a school safety grant program.

  • The state Department of Education will develop guardrails for grant applications using the commission's final recommendations.
  • A spokesperson for the department told Axios there are no details regarding the grant or process yet.

Cheryl May, director of Arkansas' Criminal Justice Institute and chair of the commission, told Axios she will help the department with rule-making for the grant.

Details: Recommendations from the commission's subcommittees made this week for each school district across the state included:

  • Students should have access to programs that deter bullying and promote healthy peer relationships.
  • School resource officers should have immediate access to body armor and helmets, forcible entry tools, medical first-aid trauma kits and ballistic shields.
  • Use of a master key system to allow quick access across campuses.
  • Seal any glass that allows vision or access into classrooms from the corridor with a film to prevent shattering and slow down intruders.
  • Equip classroom doors with locks to be engaged from the inside, but that allow authorized personnel access from the exterior and still enable evacuation.

Context: While the commission is still working on final recommendations, it presented an interim report earlier this month. Some of those suggestions included:

  • Expand of youth mental health training for all school personnel who interact with students.
  • Require districts to establish a behavioral threat assessment team.
  • Every campus should have an armed presence at all times.

What's next: The commission will meet again next week.

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