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After the recent student threat incidents, I have received a number of questions from parents, so I wanted to provide a bit more clarity about the ways we work every day to keep students safe at MHPS.
School Resource Officers: We have six school resource officers who cover each of our campuses (Mountain Home Kindergarten and Pinkston Middle School share a SRO due to proximity). Our SROs are highly-skilled, have worked to form relationships with our students, and provide a specific layer of support and expertise to our staff and administration in each building.
District School Safety Commission: This summer we formed a school safety commission made up of district employees, students, parents, local law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, medical professionals, etc. to address safety concerns across the district. The commission is using Arkansas’ School Safety Commission’s recommendations as a guide for their work. The district’s group is broken up into subcommittees, and they presented action steps at last month’s commission meeting. Because of this group’s insight and work, there will likely be some slight changes to safety procedures as well as some newly-implemented safety tools.
Threat Investigations: When the district is made aware of threats against the school or violence, there are two things that happen. School administrators start an investigation to see if a policy has been broken and a referral is made to law enforcement to see if a law has been violated. These two steps can also happen in reverse order or simultaneously. More detail about that process can be found here. Generally speaking, threats of violence result in 10 days out of school suspension (maximum allowed by school administration) with a recommendation to expel. From that point, a disciplinary referral committee is convened to review the next steps. This could be an alternative placement or an expulsion recommendation to the Board of Education. We will never release specific information about student disciplinary action, but I did want you to have a general idea of the policy we follow internally.
Bullying Policy: MHPS has a bullying policy that applies to all students as a way to protect individuals from bullying. This policy highlights what constitutes bullying, provides instructions for how to report bullying, and details the repercussions after a credible report of bullying is received.
Student/Staff Discussions: In addition to the conversations we already have surrounding school safety with our students, this week our teachers will be having conversations with all students in grades 6-12 about how we want our buildings to be safe places for learning and for emotional, physical and social support. During these discussions, teachers will emphasize the importance of students reporting feeling unsafe, anxious, or worried in a way that is affecting their abilities to be themselves and reach their full potential. Our school counselors for grades K-5 will continue to teach school connectedness and safety lessons to their students as well.
School-Based Mental Health Program: Our district has a strong program to support student mental health needs through counseling services and other mental health/wellness support. We have a number of qualified therapists and counselors available to serve students. If you have additional questions about these services, please contact our School-Based Mental Health Coordinator, Mr. Matt Sutton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ultimately, we want our students to know that they’re supported. Our teachers are dedicated to forming relationships with our students, and none of this work would be possible without them. However, if any child at MHPS does not feel that they have a trusted adult on campus that they can talk to, we want to fix this and give them a safe space to talk through anything that may be upsetting them. We know many things in our world seem uncertain, frightening, divisive, angry, and even violent, but our school doesn’t have to feel this way. We want to bring about safety, hope, and we want to make learning fun. School safety is a community-wide effort, so please continue to be eyes and ears for this cause. If you see something, say something, and help us continue to help our kids.