LITTLE ROCK — Students and teachers across the state should participate in drills to prepare them to react to campus violence, just as they do to prepare for tornadoes and fires, a state lawmaker said Tuesday.
Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said she is drafting legislation to require such drills.
"I believe students and faculty should be prepared to handle an incident of campus violence," she said. "My legislation would require drills, at lease annually, similar to the way tornado drills are carried out."
Irvin said she has been meeting with officials of the state Department of Education and the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators and has received input from organizations representing sheriffs and police chiefs.
She said the state Criminal Justice Institute, a part of the University of Arkansas system, has a program available to instruct school faculty and students on how to prepare for incidents of school violence.
"What I’m trying to do is get that onto all the campuses, and I’m trying to find the funding," she said, adding she doesn’t want to pass an unfunded mandate.
Ideally, Irvin said, she’d prefer that every school have a school resource office, a law enforcement officer who works at the school.
Many schools across the state have such officers, who generally are paid by the local police department or by the police department and the school district.
"I support school resource officers if (school districts) have the funds to do that," Irvin said. "That’s a local issue and many local cities and counties offer some financial support for that, which I very much support."
Cheryl May, director of the Criminal Justice Institute, said CJI’s safe school initiative has been available for four years and has provided training to help some school resources officers across the state.
Irvin said she decided to work on the legislation after the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., when one of her school-age children expressed concern about not knowing what to do in a situation like that.
Twenty children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown by a man with automatic weapons who forced his way into the school.