Arkansas Panel Calls For Armed Presence At All State Schools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas School Safety Commission has issued its preliminary report on school shootings and recommends that every school have an armed presence, including a trained resource officer whenever financially feasible.

68% of Arkansas 238 school districts have armed security presence with school resource officers.

“The commission found that this has increased the number of SRO’s has increased by 92 in the last five years, but we need to expand the availability of school resource officers, so that the campuses can be protected,” Governor Hutchinson said.

The commission recommends school districts who can’t afford school resource officers, have commissioned school officers like the Clarksville School District, but they should have additional training.

"The commission also recommends that schools should increase officer traffic and visibility, which is something the Bentonville Police Department has been doing since the sandy hook school shooting back in 2012.

“We created a program, so what the officers do is treat it as an actual call. So, when the day shift is out and they aren’t working an accident or on a call, they can check out the nearest school, go inside walk through and check with facility and make sure that everything is good,” Gene Page said.

The report released Tuesday also calls for increased mental health resources for students, anti-bullying programs and mandatory school safety assessments verified by the state every three years.

They also said student access to mental health services needs to improve because school counselors are currently spending more time on administrative work than counseling students who need it.

“There is not a more important assignment that we have then to protect our school children and to make sure that our schools are sad and that parents are comfortable dropping off their kids to school in a safe environment and we will do everything that we can to make sure that is accomplished,” Hutchinson said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who formed the commission following the school shooting earlier this year in Parkland, Florida, supported the panel's recommendations.

But he provided few specifics on the cost for armed officers and additional mental health services. He says the state will likely look at ways to provide financial aid.

Hutchinson says teachers will not be required to carry guns, but emphasized that each school needs at least one armed person on staff.