Fayetteville Superintendent Announces School Safety & Security Task Force

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- The superintendent for Fayetteville Public Schools has announced the creation of a school safety and security task force in the wake of recent school shootings, a news release states.

Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt announced the creation of the school district's Superintendent’s School Safety & Security Task Force.

The task force and their work will be the first phase in a multi-phase plan to address any issues related to school safety and security by concentrating on district facilities and campuses. The school district will later expand the focus to include children’s mental health needs and intensive staff training on behaviors related to mental health, intervention, counseling, and school safety and security, the release states.

The task force will also collaborate with a private company to immediately assess district buildings for safety and security, the release states.

Those with the school district said the task force will also consider best practices from across the nation that are currently implemented in school districts and schools, and develop recommendations to present to the superintendent and board of education, the release states.

“Fayetteville Public Schools is a trusted leader with the ability and responsibility to lead others across Arkansas, while providing a layer of calm and confidence to our community, staff, and students. Without hesitation, everyone who was asked to serve on this task force agreed to help us. We are blessed to have knowledgeable and experienced individuals in our community willing to dedicate their time to this effort. We will do what it takes to address the safety, security and health of our children," Wendt said.

Wendt will also shift the focus to counseling and mental health with future task forces working with experts and school staff to develop a system that better addresses mental health needs, the release states.

The final step will be to introduce innovative training and professional development for Fayetteville Public Schools staff, teaching all employees best practices in intervention and prevention, according to the school district.

“Statistics show that within every classroom there is at least one student with a mental health disorder. It is imperative that we create a systemic structure to train our staff to recognize students with mental health concerns and to connect those students with the professionals and services that can help them. One of the most important components to this over-arching issue is to remember the importance of the teacher-student relationship," Wendt said.

The group will be comprised of members from law enforcement, experts in safety and security, individuals with first-hand knowledge and experiences, elected officials, and representatives of the school district.

The members include:

Dr. John L Colbert, Co-Chair

Associate Superintendent for Support Services, Fayetteville Public Schools

  • Frank Johnson, Sr., Co-Chair

Director of Investigations, Walmart

Former Chief of Police, City of Fayetteville

  • Conner Eldridge

Founding Partner, Eldridge Brooks

Former United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas

  • Honorable Erin Wiedermann

U.S. Magistrate for the Western District of Arkansas

  • Honorable Beth Storey Bryan

Washington County Circuit Judge, Fourth Judicial District

  • Tim Helder

Sheriff, Washington County

  • Greg Tabor

Chief of Police, City of Fayetteville

  • Steve Gahagans

Chief of Police, University of Arkansas

  • Greg Leding

Member, Arkansas House of Representatives

  • David Whitaker

Member and Minority Whip, Arkansas House of Representatives

  • Chris Lawson

General Counsel, Fayetteville Public Schools

Ex-Officio:

  • Holly Johnson, Director, Communications & Public Relations, Fayetteville Public Schools
  • Susan Norton, Director, Communications & Marketing, City of Fayetteville