In Arkansas, we have continuously attempted to meet the challenge of providing Arkansas school children with a safe learning environment. The Department of Education, along with parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents across the state, has made a firm commitment to providing safe schools for nearly 450,000 students.
Recent events in Littleton, Colorado, have served to re-focus our attention on the need to ensure that our students, teachers, and communities have safe schools. While media accounts leave the general public with the overall impression that schools are not safe places for children, this is not the case. For example, a recent Department of Education report, which was filed with the U. S. Department of Education, reflected a decrease in student gun-related violations compared to the previous year.
One gun-related incident is too many! Even though most schools are free from the most extreme forms of violence reported in the media, a substantial number of students experience a variety of conflicts on a regular basis. The issues surrounding these conflicts, such as name calling, racial or ethnic intolerance, and other forms of harassment must be addressed. It is important for the public to know and understand what is required in this endeavor.
Over the last two years, we have established networks with state agencies, federal programs, and private entities to address the multi-faceted issue of school safety. One important component in the state's ongoing efforts to address school safety was the establishment of the Safe Schools Committee created by Act 1346 of 1997. The recommendations by 12-member Safe Schools Committee, chaired by Dr. Randy Bridges, Director of Student Services for the Fort Smith School District, addressed three areas: awareness, intervention, and prevention. A copy of the Committee's recommendations is attached, and the recommendations were distributed to schools through a Director's Memo in November of 1998. All school districts are strongly encouraged to review this information.
The staff of the Department of Education strives to work closely with school superintendents and local school staff on the issue of school safety. Below is a list of safe school-related issues, the appropriate Department of Education contact person, his/her telephone number and e-mail address. Please feel free to call upon the Department to assist you in developing and implementing strategies and training that will seek to provide our children with safe learning environments. As we continue in our efforts to provide our children with safe schools, it is important that schools, parents, and communities form productive and positive partnerships. By working as a team, educators, parents, and local citizens can have a positive impact on schools and schoolchildren.
Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and School Violence
Otistene Smith, Program Support Manager, Comprehensive School Health
School Plant Services
Dave Floyd, Coordinator, School Plant Services
J.B. Robertson, Field Services/Guidance Services Specialist
Student Discipline and Classroom Management
Ray Lumpkin, Coordinator, Student Discipline Policies
Character Centered Education
Margaret Crank, Coordinator, Character Centered Education