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Governor Asa Hutchinson released the Interim Report of the Arkansas School Safety Commission on Aug. 2.
The report emphasized the importance of districts using layered, comprehensive school safety strategies and ensuring school safety policies and procedures are being followed. The report noted the passage of Acts 551, 622, and 648 of the 2021 General Session, and several new projects since 2018 which focus on creating positive school environments. The Commission also highlighted the base state funding that the Arkansas Center for School Safety has been provided since 2019, and the increase of 145 School Resource Officers in school districts statewide since 2018.
The Commission also shared recommendations being considered in mental health and prevention; intelligence and communication; audits, educational opportunity programs and drills; law enforcement and security; and physical security.
“I created the school safety commission [in 2018] to review our schools, our laws, and to make recommendations to keep our children safe,” Governor Hutchinson said at today’s press conference. “The recommendations that came out of that school safety commission did not sit on a shelf, and most of those recommendations have been adopted. And, they have made a real difference in the safety of our schools.”
New recommendations being considered by the Commission include:
- All school districts should provide access to Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training to all personal who interact with students.
- All school districts should establish a behavioral threat assessment team with appropriate composition and training.
- Creating a school safety tip line committee to investigate strategies and best practices used in other states to establish and implement a statewide School Safety Tip Line for Arkansas.
- National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) crisis response training should be made available to school personnel and key stakeholders throughout the state and ensure all school districts receive relevant training information in a timely manner.
- All students should have access to mental health services, whether in person at school or via telehealth.
- School districts should develop a layered two-way communication access between staff to ensure information sharing during critical incidents (intercom systems, radios, cell phone apps, etc.)
- New radio systems that are being developed by law enforcement should consider school district(s) in their jurisdiction as part of their initial buildout and allow access to the law enforcement communication network for critical incidents by certain school administrators and staff.
- An increased focus on cybersecurity.
- Districts should be required to assign a school safety coordinator to each campus to ensure district school safety policies and procedures are being followed in doing so, create a culture of school safety compliance on every campus.
- Schools should ideally have at least one SRO for each campus and no campus should be without an armed presence at any time.
- The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) was identified as the standard (best practice) active school shooter training in Arkansas for law enforcement and commissioned school security officers.
- All school building exterior doors should remained closed and locked during school hours and schools should have a procedure for keeping them closed and locked during school hours.
- All classroom doors should remain closed and locked during school hours and schools must have a procedure for keeping them closed and locked during school hours.
- General Assembly should modify current state law 12-13-109 which states all doors and exits must be unlocked to state they must remain locked during school hours.
- Install electronic access controls for high-frequency use doors.
- Equip classrooms with door locks to be locked from the inside and only allow access from outside for authorized personnel.
- Schools have one visitor point of entrance and a secure area for them at the entrance.
- Implement a visitor management system.
- Schools should have security cameras that are accessed by designated individuals and local law enforcement.
- Districts should have a grand master key for all locks and to also provide to local law enforcement to use during a critical incident.
- Require bus drivers to have at least 20 minutes of the 3-hour required training to be on bus security.
- Add physical security items to the existing bus maintenance and operations facility inspection checklist.
- Require electronic access to all exterior and classroom doors in new constructions.
The Commission has met seven times since its reinstatement on June 10, 2022, in wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. The twenty-four members of the commission, originally formed in 2018, have worked to review the 2018 Commission final report. The Commission includes representatives from the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management (ADEM), the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), and the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA).
The Commission’s initial report was due Monday, August 1, 2022, and can be viewed by clicking HERE.
The Commission will submit the final report of findings and recommendations to the Governor no later than October 1, 2022.