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8.23.22 – KATV — LITTLE ROCK

As students head back to school this week, the state’s newest school safety commission is working to ensure your student is safe.

It’s been nearly 90 days since the tragedy that took place in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were shot dead inside of their classroom.

Police response to the scene has been criticized nationwide, but it also inspired states to take action.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson reinstated the Arkansas School Safety Commission. Earlier this month, the commission released a safety interim report recommending changes for both school districts and law enforcement.

The commission’s chairwoman, Dr. Cheryl May, who is also director of the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, spoke with KATV on the recommendations they’re working on.

“There was so much that went wrong at Uvalde. I can’t bear the thought of those lives being lost and nothing good coming from it so we’re going to do everything that we can to learn from what they did to try to ensure that every kid in Arkansas, every student in Arkansas, is protected,” said May.

May said they want to adopt a training curriculum called ALERRT – Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training.

“We took steps in the last commission meeting to use a Texas group out of Texas State University that are called ALERRT,” she said. “They do all of the active shooter training. They have been adopted by a number of different states and everything in their curriculum is all about eliminating the threat, that’s the first thing that we need to do.”

Other recommendations include: a school safety coordinator on each campus – to ensure doors are locked and classrooms are secure – providing ballistic armor, shields, and breaching tools for school resources officers, and youth mental health training.

“When the final report comes out with a number of new recommendations that we’re going to have, the superintendents are going to go ‘ oh my gosh’ they’re going to be potentially overwhelmed by how much we’re asking them to do,” May added. “Most of our schools are in great shape – but we have to make sure that all of our schools are in the same shape.”

May said while some Arkansas school districts have anonymous reporting systems, Arkansas does not have a statewide system and we need one.

“If you have an anonymous or confidential reporting system, you absolutely have to have what we call a behavioral threat assessment team,” she said. “Those teams are very multi-disciplinary – you’ve got an administrator on there, you have your school resources officer, your guidance counselor maybe a school psychologist, a school nurse, a teacher.”

Currently, around 80 school districts in Arkansas do not have a school resource officer.

May said they do not advocate for the current Commission School Security Officers program offered through the Arkansas State Police – which trains other school employees to act as resource officers.

She added, that if the program applied advanced or elevated requirements such as a standard psychological exam, random drug screenings, and training with local law enforcement – they would support schools having CSSOs.