Oct 11, 2022 - News

NWA schools' safety report card

Illustration of a plastic crossing guard giving a thumb's up.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Northwest Arkansas schools have passing grades when it comes to keeping kids safe from possible shootings on campuses, according to data compiled by Axios.

  • And 50% of the school districts surveyed are star pupils — scoring As.

Driving the news: The Arkansas School Safety Commission has submitted its final report to Gov. Asa Hutchinson with revised, recommended tactics designed as multiple layers of protection for school districts.

  • Once Hutchinson signs off, the state Department of Education can begin setting guidelines for school districts to apply for their share of $50 million in grant money to help pay for safety needs.

What we did: Axios polled 10 NWA school districts. Questions were based on the Arkansas School Safety Commission's five focus areas: mental health and prevention, law enforcement and security, physical security, intelligence and communication and audits, emergency operations and drills.

  • Axios picked two questions from each category based on how much attention the commission gave to the various topics.
  • All questions were based on previous recommendations from a 2018 report, which are likely to be included in the 2022 iteration.
  • A single point was given for each tactic in place at a district. A half-point was awarded if a tactic was in progress, but not yet implemented.

The bottom line: Five school districts scored 90% or better, and two were solid Bs at 85%. Farmington and Prairie Grove scored 70%.

  • The Lincoln School District did not respond to multiple requests for information, so it received an incomplete.
Source: the school districts; Chart: Axios Visuals
Source: the school districts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Of note: The methodology is no guarantee of protection and doesn't necessarily mean one school is safer than another on any given day.

  • It's meant to demonstrate how NWA's school districts have proactively implemented best practices ahead of the School Safety Commission's report.

Threat level: In the interest of keeping kids in the school districts safe, Axios has opted to not disclose specific questions asked, or their answers.

Background: Hutchinson appointed a 24-member commission in June, following the Uvalde, Texas, shooting. He did the same in 2018 after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack in Parkland, Florida.

What they're not saying: Cheryl May, director of Arkansas' Criminal Justice Institute and chair of the commission, declined to speak with Axios until Hutchinson's approval of a final report.

What's next: The state Department of Education's guidelines for grants will have to be developed, and Arkansas' 261 school districts will be notified of the process, then apply for the money. Timing on this process is not yet known.

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