LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - On Thursday the governor announced the creation of a new commission to study school safety in Arkansas.
The governor is setting aside $300,000 in discretionary funds to support increased training for school resource officers.
But one commission member, a superintendent, says school resource officers aren't always enough--as he started arming his teachers nearly five years ago.
For Dr. David Hopkins it all started after Sandy Hook.
"That's something that you really hate to think about, but obviously we have to think about those things," says Dr. David Hopkins, Clarksville Superintendent.
In 2013, the Clarksville schools superintendent decided to start arming select teachers and staff on their campuses.
"We knew that we needed to provide better protection for our kids," says Dr. David Hopkins.
Now, he hopes his schools can serve as a model for others across Arkansas.
"There is more that needs to be done," says Governor Asa Hutchinson.
On Wednesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson unveiled a new commission for studying school safety.
Roughly a dozen educators and law enforcement officials, including Dr. Hopkins, will evaluate and provide recommendations on security policies, campus designs, and counseling services.
"My sense is that there's going to be increased interest in additional layers of security that will add to the capability for a proper armed response with proper training," says Governor Asa Hutchinson.
The governor said he'd like trained law enforcement officers to remain a school's first line of response in the event of an active shooter.
But he also acknowledged that's not feasible everywhere.
316 school resource officers currently patrol Arkansas schools, which according to Hutchinson, only covers about a third.
"You've got individuals in those schools that want protection and they're willing to provide," says Dr. David Hopkins.
Hopkins knows school security is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that arming teachers won't work for every campus.
But if there's ever a threat, he's confident Clarksville is ready.
"We are going to do our very very best to shut it down just as quickly as we can," says Dr. David Hopkins.
The governor added that this is by no means a "gun control commission" and he doesn't feel further gun control is the solution for school safety.
The commission's first report is due July 1, before the start of the upcoming school year.
News release announcing Arkansas School Safety Commission:
With the increased concern about school safety in the wake of recent events around the nation, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced today that he has issued an executive order that creates the Arkansas School Safety Commission. The Governor has also committed $300,000 to the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) for additional training for school resource officers and security assessments for schools.
"The physical safety of our students is a nonnegotiable responsibility and demands the immediate attention of professionals in education, law enforcement, security, and mental health," Governor Hutchinson said. "This commission will report back to me with a comprehensive assessment of school security and recommendations for shoring up any gaps in security."
"Through research, interviews and school visits, the members of this commission will lead a statewide review and study that will guide us to establish and implement additional safeguards to protect Arkansas students from violence."
The commissioners will evaluate school designs, safety and security policies, emergency plans and policies, school counseling, and mental health issues. They will evaluate school security data, including issues such as single-point entry, electronic access badges, and school resource officers.
The School Safety Commission’s initial report is due to Governor Hutchinson on July 1, 2018.
The commission will include a representative from the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), and the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA).
The commission also will include the director of the CJI, a county sheriff, a public school superintendent, a public school teacher, a public school counselor, a retired federal employ with law-enforcement experience, and a mental-health professional.
Members of the commission are as follows:
- Dr. Cheryl May – Chair Director, Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) Univ. of Arkansas System
- Bill Temple – Vice Chair, Retired Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- John “Don” Kaminar - Special Projects & School Safety Mgr., Ark. Dept. of Educ. (ADE)
- Brad Montgomery - Dir. of Public School Academic Facilities, Ark. Dept. of Educ. (ADE)
- A.J. Gary - Director - Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM)
- Sheriff Tim Helder - Washington County Sheriff
- Jami Cook - Director, Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA)
- Will Jones - Deputy Atty. General, Special Investigations Unit, Office of the Atty. General
- David Hopkins - Superintendent, Clarksville School District
- Dawn Anderson - High School Counselor, Hot Springs High School
- John Allison - Teacher, Vilonia High School
Governor Hutchinson will appoint a mental health professional in the coming days, prior to the start of the commission’s work. Additional appointees from the different geographic regions of Arkansas may be appointed to the commission as Governor Hutchinson deems appropriate.
Full Thursday news conference announcing Arkansas School Safety Commission creation: