The Arkansas School Safety Commission met for its fourth gathering on May 30 at the Criminal Justice Institute in Little Rock.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson created the group, compiled of law enforcement, educators and other professionals, to address the increasingly serious safety problem in schools across the nation.
The governor made the announcement during a news conference in March where he spoke on the importance of the executive branch to quickly look at the schools across the state.
The group of 18 members has been tasked with analyzing schools and what is being done in terms of safety, what more could be done, what recommendations they may have to increase safety, what has been learned from violent school situations in the past and what gaps need and can be addressed.
The Log Cabin Democrat spoke with Doug Bradberry, operations manager with the commissioner’s office at the Arkansas Department of Education, Wednesday who said each member is a part of the several subcommittees — physical safety, law enforcement, intelligence and communications, mental health and more — that are looking at and addressing specific issues that directly impact safety standards.
He said committee members will also research what other states have and are doing and if that can be applied to Arkansas schools.
As of Friday, five school site visits had been completed.
Bradberry said committee members will put together their recommendations for the governor and deliver a brief — with a beginning plan — to the governor by the end of June.
He said it’s important to note that the commission was put together to recommend changes, but doesn’t have the authority to make those changes.
Each one of the open meetings they’ve had, Bradberry said, has heard several comments regarding arming school teachers and other arguments but wants to make it clear that the committee doesn’t have the power to change the laws — Hutchinson will be the one making decisions.
"He has created a commission that is very knowledgeable in these areas,” Bradberry said.
He said it all comes down to recommending options for similar schools and what fits them best and coming up with a way to keep students safe.
“I think that’s all of us as parents want,” he said.
The commission includes chair Cheryl May, director of the Criminal Justice Institute; vice chair Bill Temple, Federal Bureau of Investigation retired special agent; Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Special Projects and School Safety Manager John “Don” Kaminar; ADE Director of Public School Academic Facilities Brad Montgomery; Arkansas Department of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary; Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder; Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy Director Jami Cook; Clarksville School District Superintendent David Hopkins; Hot Springs High School counselor Dawn Anderson; Vilonia High School teacher John Allison; Rogers Fire Department Chief Marvin L. Burton; Lori Poston, a child and adolescent therapist from Jonesboro; Margaret Weiss, professor from UAMS Department of Psychiatry and the director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; parent Ricky Hopkins from the Prescott School District; Sterling Claypoole, professor in psychology at South Arkansas Community College and parent from El Dorado School District; and Marvell-Elaine School District Superintendent Joyce Cottoms.
The commission will make its final report to the governor by Nov. 30.