The Arkansas School Safety Commission adopted eight more recommendations Tuesday, including one to provide access to training and support for programs that deter bullying and create an inclusive classroom environment.
These initiatives can provide better ways to provide intervention and assistance to students who need it, said commissioner Lori Poston, vice president of clinical services for Arisa Health’s northeast region.
“There’s so much that can be built into this that can help children that we typically ostracize and we isolate and we remove them from the school environment,” she said.
The commission has been discussing ways to respond to students’ mental health and physical safety. Gov. Asa Hutchinson reinstated the commission in June following a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 21 students and teachers.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission also approved a recommendation to implement Community Emergency Response Team training in high schools. Students who receive CERT training would be qualified to participate on the response team and could “play a very valuable role” in building a culture of compliance with safety and security procedures, chair Cheryl May said.
Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder proposed that school resource officers have instant access to certain equipment in the event of an active shooter, including body armor, ballistic helmets, forcible entry tools and medical trauma kits. Helder noted the recommendation does not yet have a funding mechanism, but the panel approved the proposal anyway.
The final five approved recommendations came from the physical security subcommittee, which recommended that all school districts have a master key system and that they provide local law enforcement with access to the master key during a critical incident.
“During a potential threat to students or staff, precious time cannot afford to be lost searching for keys to get access,” said Tim Cain, director of the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation.
Protecting any glass that allows someone to look inside a classroom or gain access from the corridor, covering glass panels on classroom doors during lockdowns and equipping those doors with locks that can be secured on the inside were also approved recommendations.
The governor released the group’s interim report Aug. 2 and a final report is due by Oct. 1. The commission’s next meeting is Sept. 6.
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