In the aftermath of the attack on the high school in Parkland, Florida, improving the safety of our schools has taken on a new urgency.
The protection of our students must be assured and demands the immediate attention of professionals in education, law enforcement, security, and mental health.
That is why I have issued an executive order that creates the Arkansas School Safety Commission. I have appointed a stellar array of experts to study and assess the state of security at our schools and to recommend how to fill the gaps they find.
These commissioners will move quickly on this vital mission. They will submit their first report to me on July 1, so that I have adequate time to act on it before school begins next fall. They will deliver the finished report on November 30, which will give us time to prepare for the 2019 General Assembly if that is necessary.
So that we can improve school safety immediately, I have allocated $300,000 in discretionary funds to the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute to accelerate the training of our school resource officers.
The School Safety Commission will include a representative from the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, the Arkansas Department of Education, and the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy.
The chairman of the School Safety Commission will be Cheryl May, director of the Criminal Justice Institute, and retired FBI Special Agent Bill Temple will be the co-chair. The commission also will include a county sheriff, a public school superintendent, a public school teacher, a public school counselor, a retired public school teacher, a mental-health professional, and additional appointees from the different parts of the state as they are needed.
The commission will look at a broad range of issues, from the practical matter of school architecture with an emphasis on single-point entry to limit access. This is important as we design and build new schools, and we must determine whether we can retrofit existing schools to improve safety.
Commissioners also will recommend ways to anticipate threats in order to prevent attacks. They also will recommend appropriate training for counselors and the sufficiency of school counselors. And they will make recommendations regarding the training of school resource officers and what more needs to be done. The commission also will discuss the idea of arming and training volunteers on staff in the event that our best efforts fail and a school must respond to an active shooter.
I want to emphasize that this is not a gun-control commission. This is a school-safety commission with the single mission of making our schools safe through prevention, training, and armed response as needed. Further gun control is not a solution.
Adequate training at all levels of response – from counselors to law enforcement – is the key.
The world is changing. We must act now to ensure that our students are safe to learn and that our teachers are safe to teach.
I am grateful for the professionals who have agreed to serve on the School Safety Commission. Our children will be safer because of their work.