So what did the governor’s reconvened School Safety Commission talk about first today: more armed police in Arkansas schools as the commission was updated on responses to recommendations made in a 2018 report.
Dr. Cheryl May of the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute and chair of the commission, ran down recommendations from the 2018 report. She proudly reported first that since the report, the number of school districts with school resource officers had increased, to 460 officers in 223 school districts. Only 20 percent of districts have an armed officer on every campus, but her prediction was that the number would increase.
She noted suggestions had been for adequate training and school district understandings with law enforcement that their role wasn’t to become school disciplinarians (a problem in some places). For example she noted this earlier recommendation on resource officers:
May said some further effort might be necessary to increase “redundancy” of protection, such as backups from local law enforcements. She cheered the creation, under new law, of school district police forces in 16 districts (such as Uvalde, Texas has). She said about two-thirds of districts have school safety teams as the 2018 report encouraged.
She said new law had encouraged school safety assessments and school nurses had been trained for emergency situations.
May said among areas which improvement was needed was in threat assessment.
The commission was told that school districts now could seek state money for security improvements through the facilities improvement program. New schools are being built with enhanced security features, the commission was told.
Security priorities past and future were identified.
May said progress had been made, but that efforts to improve school safety had never stopped.
After May’s presentation, subcommittees were organized.
Discussion was limited. One question was raised about doing some study on how to pay for changes that might be recommended.