Classroom doors must have locks with a master key, school resource officers must have a “travel bag” and windows must be covered with shatterproof film in accordance with new School Safety Commission recommendations from Arkansas.
The recommendations adopted by the commission at its two-hour meeting on Tuesday were primarily aimed at strengthening the school’s security against an active shooter threat on campus.
Tim Cain, director of school facilities and public school transportation for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, led a subcommittee that studied physical school safety in light of the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Utah. Texas.
During the Uvalde shooting, police incorrectly assumed that a classroom where the shooter was was locked, according to a Texas House of Representatives investigation into the shooting.
To prevent a locked door from preventing police from entering a classroom, Cain said schools should have locks with a master key that law enforcement can access. Cain said he and other commission members had read the Texas report on the Uvalde shooting, saying a master key would buy time in an emergency.
“During a potential threat to students or staff, valuable time cannot afford to be wasted searching for keys to gain access,” Cain said.
The commission also adopted recommendations that door locks should be readily accessible from inside a classroom in the event of an internal threat or fire. Campuses should also add shatterproof film to windows between classrooms and hallways.
School districts must use cover over vision panels during lockdowns that prevent a shooter from looking into a classroom from the outside.
The commission also unanimously adopted Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder’s recommendation that school resource officers should each have a personal “duffle bag” that would have a level four body armor, a ballistic helmet, forcible entry tools and medical first aid kits.
Helder said the body armor and ballistic helmet would protect officers from shotgun shells that were used in recent mass shootings. Forced entry tools would help officers quickly enter a locked or barricaded room.
Helder cited the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, where the shooter barricaded himself in a campus building using a metal chain to lock the door, as explaining why police need forcible entry tools.
“Also in Uvalde, Texas, even though the door was unlocked, law enforcement officers thought it was locked and valuable time was wasted trying to locate the breaching tools,” Helder said.
Helder also recommended that school resource officers have instant access to ballistic shields.
The commission had previously recommended that each school campus designate a staff member as a security coordinator and that school districts have a secure point of entry for visitors.
Governor Asa Hutchinson reconvened the School Safety Board on June 10 after the Uvalde shooting. The commission has until October 1 to submit a report to the governor with its recommendations.
During the special session of the Legislature earlier this month, lawmakers approved $50 million in grants that individual districts could apply for.
“This $50 million grant program for our local school districts and for school safety initiatives will allow schools to implement some of the one-time recommendations coming out of the school safety commission,” Hutchinson said at a ceremony. bill signing earlier this month.