Oct 17, 2022 - News

Arkansas' school safety report OK'd

A gun with school pencils

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

The Arkansas School Safety Commission's final report got approval from Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week.

Why it matters: The state Department of Education can now begin setting guidelines for school districts to apply for their share of $50 million in grant money to help pay for new or enhanced safety measures designed to protect kids from threats while on campus.

  • Cheryl May, director of Arkansas' Criminal Justice Institute and chair of the commission, told Axios in the past that she would consult with the state’s education department on grant parameters.

Yes, but: In his letter to the General Assembly, Hutchinson noted that the $50 million will aid in making safety improvements, but "recurring funding" will be necessary to fully implement the commission's recommendations.

Context: The commission was appointed by Hutchinson following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, to update a 2018 safety report.

Details: The commission submitted more than 56 recommendations from its focus areas: Mental health and prevention, law enforcement and security, physical security, intelligence and communication, and audits, emergency operations and drills. Key recommendations include:

  • Keeping classroom and building doors locked during school hours.
  • Establishing a basic statewide school information sharing program for cybersecurity incidents and threats.
  • Conducting routine and unannounced safety checks on campuses, at least monthly, to evaluate safety and security policies and procedures.
  • The Arkansas Center for School Safety should coordinate a planning group to focus on the development and implementation of a statewide school safety tip line.
  • There should be an armed presence on every campus at every school district.

What they're saying: "It is important to note that while the findings of the School Safety Commission are recommendations — not requirements — districts are working to implement as many measures as possible," Hutchinson said in a letter that preceded the report.

What's next: It's not yet clear when the state Department of Education will begin drafting guidelines for school districts or when they'll be communicated to Arkansas schools.

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