The Arkansas Department of Education recently selected one of its employees to take on the position of school safety coordinator to continue the effort toward making districts across the state, more safe.
In the new role, Doug Bradberry will assist Arkansas schools and districts in the process of developing school-safety policies and procedures.
Additionally, he will also assist the districts with “comprehensive school safety assessments,” will work with the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation regarding revisions to the Arkansas Public School Academic Facility Manual and will also unite with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office to implement the 30 recommendations or so that were provided to Hutchinson via the Arkansas School Safety Commission.
Bradberry is no stranger to this process.
The Log Cabin Democrat has spoken with Bradberry — who served as operations manager with the commissioner’s office at the ADE while working closely with the commission — on multiple occasions for information since Hutchinson created an 18-member committee, the Arkansas School Safety Commission, in March 2018.
The group was tasked with analyzing schools across the state, what they were doing in terms of safety, conducting site visits, sending out district surveys and more as a way to address the increasing safety problem in schools across the U.S.
Hutchinson made the decision in the wake of the shooting that killed 17 and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Florida.
The Parkland tragedy forced many states to reevaluate, including Arkansas.
Hutchinson signed an executive order during that March news conference, requesting that the 18-member commission — made up of law enforcement personnel, parents, educators, counselors and other professionals — study and analyze both the physical and mental safety of the more than 260 k-12 schools across the state and look at the architecture of buildings as it related to the safety of its students and staff, including the prevention and response to active shooter threats.
The commission gave initial recommendations to the governor this past summer and its final report in December 2018.
During a news conference at the state capitol, Cheryl May, commission chair, told guests that the group had listened to 30 presentations and visited 12 diverse schools.
Hutchinson said he was able to review the report in a draft the weekend prior, which included the following:
Security teams for all districts.
Designation of one staff members as a school safety coordinator.
Better training for nurses and staff in emergency medical situations.
Create and maintain a comprehensive communication plan for school officials, parents, law enforcement and more.
Enhance physical security, which included a possible change to the state’s Academic Facilities Partnership Program to give opportunity for districts to receive state financial assistance.
Also mentioned during the conference was the need for every school campus to have an armed presence, which the governor said shouldn’t be a mandated requirement, but, should be a decision left up to each local district. Hutchinson said 70 percent of districts currently have at least one School Resource Officer and 54 alone have been added this year.
“I believe that is a direct result of the recommendations from this report,” he said during the meeting.
The review, Hutchinson said, was the most comprehensive that had been concluded by any state, in his judgement, and one that would be looked at and studied by others across the U.S.
“I tasked the commission with providing recommendations that would improve school safety for all students,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently said in a news release. “The commission provided a very comprehensive list of recommendations for consideration. I commend the [Arkansas] Department of Education for making school safety a priority and reallocating an existing position to assist districts with their efforts to improve school safety for all students."
As for Bradberry, he has worked at the ADE for almost 14 years, and, in addition to his time in the commissioner’s office, he also served in the curriculum unit and research and technology, provided assistance for the state board of education and the commission on closing the achievement gap and helped with drug education and the safe schools effort.
“I want to thank [Gov.] Hutchinson and his efforts to see the need to form the Arkansas School Safety Commission back in March to research and make recommendations to help make Arkansas schools safe,” Bradberry said. “I want to thank Commissioner Johnny Key for seeing the importance of having a unit devoted to school safety and seeing the potential in me to help lead this task.”
He said before his new appointment, he only found 20 states with a unit designated to school safety, Arkansas being one of only six in the southern region to do so.
“I am excited for the opportunities this new position embraces,” Bradberry said. “As for my role in this new position, I want school districts to know they have a person solely devoted to providing support and resources so our parents can feel safe when their child arrives at school and students can feel safe while they are in class.”
As the new school safety coordinator, he said, he’s looking forward to working with agencies across the state to accomplish the “vast task” they call school safety, which goes beyond just active shooters, but also encompasses mental health, law enforcement, intel and communications, emergency operations and physical security.
“Over the next couple of weeks I look forward to visiting school districts and other agencies to work together to provide a safe environment for Arkansas students,” Bradberry said.