The Senate Education committee on Wednesday approved a bill by Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) that would create an exception to the state’s Freedom of Information Act regarding emergency or security records for public schools or public colleges or universities. SB 12 next heads to the Senate floor.
Stubblefield and supporters say the bill is a public safety precaution. When school security plans are public record, they argue, campuses are more vulnerable to premeditated attack. But opponents say SB 12 would undermine public safety by preventing parents and others seeking information about a school’s security plan from accessing that information.
The bill is worded quite broadly. It would exempt from the FOIA “records or other information … that upon disclosure could reasonably be expected to be detrimental to the public safety, including without limitation records or other information concerning emergency or security plans, school safety plans, procedures, risk assessments, studies, measures, or systems.” It also would exempt “records or other information relating to the number of licensed security officers, school resource officers, or other security personnel, as well as any personal information about those individuals.”
SB 12 is hardly the only bill this session seeking to circumscribe the FOIA. Among other legislation, HB 1248 by Rep. Jeff Williams (R-Springdale) proposes exempting dash camera and body camera footage “relevant to an investigation conducted by a law enforcement agency” until the investigation is complete. SB 131 — also by Sen. Stubblefield — would apply an exemption to records of the state Capitol police that contains language similar to SB 12, and is similarly broad. And SB 261, sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), would exempt litigation involving a public college or university from the public eye.