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School safety commission works hard to avoid using the word “gun”


The Arkansas School Safety Commission met for the first time Tuesday since the Uvalde, Texas, shootings, listened to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge campaign for teachers’ votes and heard about another gun some school administrators apparently want in their educational arsenal.

In true form, the commission avoided using the word “gun” until the meeting had been underway for 1 1/2 hours and then only because chairman Cheryl May was talking about adding more guns, not removing them, from schools and communities.

May, who address Arkansas lawmakers earlier this month before convening the commission’s first official meeting of 2022 today, talked about how some schools might have supply needs to deal with active-shooter attacks. Specifically, she said, she’s been hearing about a need for “breaching shotguns.”

Unlike way too many politicians, I don’t get any money from the NRA, so I had to look up the term “breaching shotguns.”

According to Wikipedia, “A breaching round or slug-shot is a shotgun shell specially made for door breaching. It is typically fired at a range of 6 inches … or less, aimed at the hinges or the area between the doorknob and lock and doorjamb, and is designed to destroy the object it hits and then disperse into a relatively harmless powder.”

For those thinking about the Uvalde shootings where reports have swirled about a locked classroom door as a reason police didn’t enter the room sooner, forget that. The Associated Press reported that the head of the Texas state police testified just today that, if the police had bothered to check the door, they would have found it unlocked. Instead, the armed police waited. In the end, 19 children and two adults died there.

No other commission members were heard using the word “gun,” even though that has been the common factor in every school shooting in this country, including the one in Westside Middle School near Jonesboro in 1998. The Westside shootings resulted in five people dead and 10 others injured.

Citing reports by the Secret Service, May said a 2019 article found that most attackers involved in 41 incidents between 2008 and 2017 were male and that seven were female.

May said 63 percent of the attackers were white, 15 percent African-American, and 5 percent Hispanics. The attackers were seventh-graders to seniors, she related.

“The key thing that this article notes,” May said, “is that there is no clear profile for a school attacker.”

May also cited a 2021 report in which the Secret Service reviewed 67 averted school plots between 2006 and 2018.

“Their overall statement is, coming forward can save lives,” she said, referring to the need to identify warning signs and to act before a student’s behavior warrants legal intervention. Most plots were motivated by student grievances, she said.

She said school resource officers were responsible for averting one-third of the plots.

In Arkansas, May said, there are 460 school resource officers in 223 districts, compared with 316 in 154 districts in the past. “I personally suspect that number is going to grow even more,” she said.

She also cited a need for a statewide anonymous reporting system, which many states already have.

“Many of the attack spots were associated with certain dates, particularly the month of April,” she said.

According to a 2016 Washington Post article, factors that makes April significant include everything from the beginning of warm weather to the desire of killers to pay homage to Columbine, other violent anniversaries and even Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

May said a retired Secret Service agent will speak at the commission’s meeting next week.

The commission will meet weekly on Tuesday afternoons, with subcommittee meetings on other days. Its initial report is due to Republican Governor Hutchinson on Aug. 1, with its final report due Oct. 1.

Among the commission members was one who made it clear that she didn’t have to abide by the same rules as the others. May had just said she would be the commission’s sole spokeswoman to the news media when Rutledge, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, spoke up and said she would advise her media office but that she would be speaking for herself.

“Yes, ma’am,” May replied.

Rutledge had perhaps misspoken earlier in the meeting when she said, “We need to make sure that teachers are only worried about educating and loving these children.”

If she follows the advice of some of her Republican peers, she’ll have some Arkansas teachers doing far more than educating and loving. She’ll have at least some of them toting guns and bullets to school along with their lesson plans, while also keeping tabs on their students’ mental health.

 

 

 



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