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North Arkansas schools leaders addressing school safety regardless of legislative action

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 4:31 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Harrison Schools Superintendent Dr. Stewart Pratt says student safety will be the primary concern over the summer months.

On Thursday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a pen and pad session, recommending the state use part of its estimated $1.4 billion surplus to increase school safety. He said the issue itself could be discussed in a special legislative session. The session could also highlight possible tax relief for Arkansans as prices jump.

“Parents are certainly worried and concerned and asking themselves questions whether my child can safely go to school,” said Gov. Hutchinson. “And as a state, we need to be in a position for our local school districts in terms of their safety enhancement efforts.”

The surplus funds would assist schools in implementing safety measures, including increased school counseling, armed presence in schools, and prevention efforts.

“I think schools will welcome that. Security measures at schools are very expensive,” Dr. Pratt said Friday. “Anytime we can get some kind of relief or support to have improved access control, improved response times in response situations, any of those types of measures we can have some support, we’ll take it.”

The district coordinates with first responders to ensure a quick response if an emergency arises. The district is helping fund multiple advanced trainings for its school resource officers (SRO).

“Right now, we need to say, ‘hey, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate what we have, what we need to improve on,’” said Harrison Schools Head SRO, Lt. Mike Toland. “We’re sending our SROs to a national conference in Florida on Safe schools, and I’m going to Arkansas Safe School. So we’re always working. It’s a priority for us.”

Harrison school says regardless of decisions of the state legislature, it will continue to prepare for the next school year from a security standpoint and that parents should do the same.

“I think with any tragedy, it’s imperative parents talk to their students, their children, about these situations and make them aware,” said Dr. Pratt. “Our best response will be the people that are already in the building, to notice something is different, something doesn’t look right, and notify building leaders.”

As of Friday, legislators have yet to have been called for a special session.

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