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Our View

West Memphis making moves on school safety as state commission prepares report

As we all know, school safety has become a major priority and in Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s special Arkansas School Safety commission is putting the final touches on their recommendations while West Memphis school officials are “ahead of the curve” on ways to keep their students and faculty safe.

Thanks in large part to the cooperation of the West Memphis Police Department, city officials and the generosity of Southland Park Gaming and Racing many of the recommendations this state commission has come up are already being implemented, or are in the process of being so.

Since March this 18-member School Safety Commission has heard from various state officials, such as those associated with the Arkansas Department of Health’s medical director of child health as well as at least two city police chiefs as to their safety recommendations.

Some of the initial recommendations include that no campus should ever be without armed presence when staff and children are present, and includes options for increasing armed presence on school campuses.

Those options include the already legal permitted “school resource officers” who are police officers, and “commission school security officers “ who can be teachers and other school district personnel who are not police officers.

Other recommendations include more safety training for education leaders and installing surveillance cameras on school campuses.

Meanwhile, while these state commissioners were banging around all these ideas and wasting their time listening to a group of women calling themselves Moms Demand Actin for Gun Sense in America, saying they are against armed educators on any school grounds, West Memphis school and city officials, police officers and one major financial contributor have already put into action many of the proposed recommendations far head of the final report being submitted to Hutchinson Nov. 30.

Kudos to Delaware North and Southland Park Gaming and Racing leaders for donating $65,000 to purchase 10 Skycop cameras to be installed at all West Memphis school campuses. Well-deserved recognition also goes to West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oaks and his police department for proposing expanding school resource officers to every school with the financial assistance from the school district. Both the school district and the city will absorb the total cost of hiring, training and equipping the additional officers.

And, let’s point out that over the past several months both the West Memphis Police Department and the Crittenden County Sheriff’s deputies have been undergoing extensive special response training on school campuses and we also believe school officials are also involved.

And, let’s not leave out the many measures school officials have taken to better secure school campuses from establishing special lock-downs to specific instructions teachers are giving to their students in the event of an active shooter situation may occur.

While Hutchinson’s special commission may be finalizing their recommendations on school safety, there is no doubt Crittenden County, particularly West Memphis law enforcement, educators and many others within the community seem well prepared for an event they hope will never occur.

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