Arkansas school safety panel revisits hardening campuses

Survey of Arkansas schools shows 84% of campuses are armed or have an armed presence.

Updated: June 21, 2022 - 11:28pm

The Arkansas School Safety Commission reconvened Tuesday to evaluate progress on its recommendations first made in 2018.

It’s the second meeting the commission had held this year since 2018 when it released its final report with recommendations to increase school security that touched on a large swath of issues, including emergency operation plans, law enforcement, and mental health and prevention.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had the commission reinstated after increased concern over school safety following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

One of the recommendations from 2018 was to increase armed presence in schools.

“After careful study of previous active shooter incidents, it has become apparent that a rapid armed response from within the school building saves lives,” the 2018 report concluded. “The faster a school shooter is engaged by armed responders the sooner the situation is halted; this translates to lives saved. No campus should ever be without armed presence when staff and children are present.”

A survey of Arkansas’ schools shows 84% of campuses are armed or have an armed presence, 75% of which were school resource officers.

The report recommended each school have at least one SRO per campus. The commission said Tuesday there has been a significant increase in SROs since 2018, with a total of 460 throughout the state’s over 200 school districts.

While there was already a recommendation for SRO training, the commission discussed the possibility of standardizing active shooter training for all SROs.

Two-thirds of schools reported they had a district safety and security team. The commission recommended that these teams meet annually with local authorities to review their emergency plans.

A total of 97% of schools reported they had a safety coordinator, the commission said.

Members also discussed the availability of stop the bleed kits in schools and whether a future survey was needed to evaluate this.

The commission also heard progress in recommending schools implement an anonymous reporting system for suspicious activity and behavioral threats. Public schools in Arkansas began using a system from Rave Mobile Safety for this purpose in 2019.

The company reported the use of its system allowed a high school student in Marion to report another student who had allegedly mentioned bringing a firearm to campus. The anonymous report initiated a lockdown and potentially thwarted a school shooting, Rave Mobile Safety claimed.

The School Safety Commission is responsible for identifying any new recommendations for schools since its 2018 report and bringing an initial report to the governor by Aug. 1.