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Arkansas School Safety Commission Releases Final Report With Recommendations

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) listens to Arkansas School Safety Commission Chair Cheryl May during a press conference Monday to unveil the commission's final report with recommendations for schools.
Michael Hibblen
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) listens to Arkansas School Safety Commission Chair Cheryl May during a press conference Monday to unveil the commission's final report with recommendations for schools.

After nine months of work, the Arkansas School Safety Commission released its final report Monday with recommendations on how schools could best avoid mass shootings. The panel was created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March as a response to a school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed. 

The 30 recommendations, which are listed in an executive summary, are grouped by prevention, security, planning, communications and steps schools can take to improve their buildings.

During a press conference at the state Capitol, Hutchinson said he believed it was the most comprehensive study of school safety that has been conducted by any state in the nation.

"This is comprehensive in its breadth, it’s comprehensive in its recommendations and I already know that it has had a very significant impact on our local school districts in terms of enhanced safety, but I also believe that this will be followed very closely by other states," Hutchinson said.

A preliminary report was released in July with recommendations for schools to consider before the start of the current school year.

Among the recommendations is that each school have an armed presence when staff and students are attending class or “a major extra-curricular activity.” Ideally, that should be a school resource officer. But it could be someone else on campus who has undergone extensive screening and training.

But some schools could decide not have an armed presence.

"I do not believe that should be mandated. That is a recommendation," Hutchinson said. "The final decision should be made by the local school district and local school leadership."

He said 70 percent of Arkansas schools have school resource officers and others have arrangements with local law enforcement agencies.

"This has been an extraordinary exercise that has exceeded my expectations."

Dr. Cheryl May chaired the commission and said a survey after the preliminary report was released over the summer showed that most schools were enacting recommendations.

After nine months of holding regular meetings, conducting research and talking with experts, the commission’s work is over. But Hutchinson said officials will be conducting regular assessments.

"I hope that we’ll be able to see a year from now, first of all that there not be any incidents in Arkansas. That would be a real answer to prayer, but also because of security initiatives," Hutchinson said. "I do believe anytime that you initiate something like this that it needs to be reviewed. This is something that our Department of Education can review and to see the measure of implementation on the security measures and whether there is any additional gaps that we need to address in the future."

You can read the full report here.

KUAR is a content partner of KASU based in Little Rock.  Read more news from central Arkansas here.

As News Director, Michael Hibblen oversees daily news coverage for KUAR. He handles assignments for the news staff, helps develop story ideas and edits copy. Michael isresponsible for starting a news-sharing partnership between public radio stations in Arkansas in 2009 which laid the foundation for what became Arkansas Public Media. He is also a regular panelist and fill-in host on AETN's Arkansas Week, where journalists discuss issues in the news.