Arkansas governor calls for increasing school safety after Texas shooting
In the aftermath of a shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed at least 19 children, two adults, and injured an additional 17 people, Arkansas’ governor says he will take steps to increase school safety.
On Twitter Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “As a father and grandfather, I am devastated by the tragic and senseless shooting yesterday in Uvalde, Texas. We are increasing school security plans in Arkansas to ensure our children will be safe at school.”
Two weeks after a 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida in which 17 people were killed, Hutchinson created the Arkansas School Safety Commission. By the end of the year, members submitted a 124-page report with 30 recommendations on ways to enhance security in districts statewide.
Among the suggestions were that no campus ever be without an armed presence when children or staff were present, efforts to address mental health issues, training for all personnel who interact with students, having plans in place for how to respond to different situations and improving the physical security of school buildings.
But the recommendations were not mandatory, with Hutchinson saying at the time that final decisions should be made by local school leaders.
In Wednesday's written statement, Hutchinson said many of the suggestions were implemented by school districts. Now he wants to meet with those who crafted the original report for a reassessment.
“I will be working with Commission Chair Dr. Cheryl May and Secretary of Education Johnny Key to reinforce those recommendations to ensure school districts are as safe as they can be,” Hutchinson said. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our children.”
U.S. and Arkansas flags should be lowered to half-staff until Saturday, the governor said, “as we remember and honor the victims of the horrific tragedy.”
Arkansas was the location of a 1998 school shooting near Jonesboro where five people were killed and 10 were injured at Westside Middle School. Two students opened fire on classmates and teachers from a nearby wooded area after pulling a fire alarm which evacuated the school building.