Governor Asa Hutchinson announced yesterday, August 2, the release of the 2022 Arkansas School Safety Commission interim report. Established by Governor Hutchinson in the wake of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the commission published a final report later that same year. Following the Uvalde shooting in May of 2022, the commission was reconvened to assess the status of school safety across Arkansas, review the 2018 report, and submit a new report on how to improve school safety by October of 2022. This is not the commission’s final report, but it does contain much of its work and recommendations so far.
The report highlights several acts and programs since 2-18 that have helped to improve school safety and shares new recommendations on how to improve, largely focusing on 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,” Gov. Hutchinson said at yesterday’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.”
Recommendations that are currently being taken into consideration by the commission include:
- All school districts should provide access to Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training to all personnel who interact with students.
- 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.
- Schools should ideally have at least one SRO for each campus and no campus should be without an armed presence at any time.
- All school building exterior doors should remain closed and locked during school hours and schools should have a procedure for keeping them closed and locked during school hours.
- 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.
The commission has met seven times since being reinstated on June 10, 2022. The interim report was submitted to the Governor on Aug. 1 and can be read in full by clicking here. The commission’s final report will be submitted to the Governor no later than Oct. 1, 2022.