The Arkansas School Safety Commission presented its final report to Governor Asa Hutchinson today, making 30 recommendations.
The commission, an 18-member group appointed by the governor to study and analyze the safety of K-12 schools throughout the state, made recommendations regarding mental health; security; emergency operations plans; communication with local law enforcement; and infrastructure and school bus safety.
As expected, that includes the recommendation that “no campus should ever be without an armed presence when staff and children are attending class or a major extra-curricular activity.”
However, the commission’s reports states that districts would still have autonomy over such decisions:
The Commission also recognizes that because of the diverse collection of school districts across our state, each district should be allowed to determine how this recommendation should be implanted.
In addition to regular law enforcement officers on campus, under a law passed in 2015, school districts can also elect to use commissioned school security officers (CSSOs) — staffers authorized to carry weapons on campus after completing 60 hours of training developed by the Arkansas State Police. Private security guards hired by the school can become CSSOs, but the law also allows non-security school staffers to do so, including teachers.
In a press release, Hutchinson also highlighted some of the commission’s recommendations regarding mental health:
Recommendations regarding the mental health aspect include reviewing the roles and responsibilities of school counselors in order to provide increased time with students; conducting school climate surveys across all campuses in all districts; developing and implementing an action plan based on the findings of those school climate surveys; and providing training in Youth Mental Health First Aid to all personnel who interact with students.
In some cases, the commission’s recommendations include the caveat “if financially practicable.” There’s the rub. Many of the commission’s ideas would require a real investment by the state to pull off in districts on tight budgets. Where will the money come from?
In the press release, the governor commented:
I am confident that these recommendations, while not mandatory, will be a useful tool for our superintendents and principals as we seek to better secure our schools and create the safest environment possible for our children, our teachers, and our faculties.