School Safety Commission member from Jonesboro offers mental health approach

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Lori Poston, a Jonesboro therapist who serves on the state's School Safety Commission, plans to bring a mental health approach to the complex issue.

"Our kids go to school today and ask, am I going to leave school today? Am I going to get shot today? Is something bad going to happen that's catastrophic at school today? That's what our kids are worried about and that's not right," Poston said.

Region 8 News spoke with Poston in her office at Mid-South Health Systems on Wednesday following the commission's first meeting in Little Rock Tuesday.

Poston is 1 of 18 people appointed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to be on the committee following the deadly high school shooting in Florida last month.

"The commission is diverse," Poston said. "There are administrators, law enforcement officials, therapists."

At Tuesday's meeting, Poston said everyone brought different unique school-safety ideas to the table to keep children safe in Arkansas schools.

The first meeting mainly focused on their mission and vision moving forward.

With having extensive experience in school-based mental health, Poston's goal on the committee is to approach mental health with a preventable standpoint.

"Early identification of young people who are struggling, that may left unattended become those children who make threats," Poston said.

The next few months on her part will brainstorm ways to better equip schools to identify those children.

"How can we offer services to those children early on rather than waiting until they escalate to a point where they are a threat to themselves or others, hoping we can put some good early-intervention pieces in place," Poston said. "That's my hope."

The commission will look at everything from the makeup of classrooms to the physical buildings, down to the windows.

"This committee really is looking at the whole picture," she said. "Different subcommittees will plan travel to schools across the state and look at the buildings, what is safe, what may be a risk factor. We'll talk with students, administrators, staff to find out what their concerns are."

Poston said a school administrator said at the meeting they would like a student voice on the commission.

"He's going to bring that student and I believe we are going to add that piece to our commission, so that we have a student's perspective as well," she said.

The commission will have its first report on the governor's desk by July 1.

"I'm thrilled the Governor Hutchinson has taken this initiative," Poston said. "We know in Arkansas how devastating these school shootings can be, we are no strangers. I'm so happy he wanted to get right on this and said hey, we have a problem folks, let's get a solution together."

The commission will meet next on April 4.

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