Arkansas superintendents answer questions about school safety amid abundant threats

We asked the Little Rock and North Little Rock superintendents to answer the concerns we have heard from our viewers about school safety as threats mount.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — We’ve heard your concerns about school threats since the Parkland shooting. We’ve seen school threats made across the county on a daily basis. We understand your concerns so we brought your questions to Little Rock School District superintendent Michael Poore and North Little Rock superintendent Kelly Rodgers.

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We boiled your questions down to three main talking points and here is what both superintendents had to say. For their complete answers, watch the full interview.

  • When and in what situations are parents notified of a threat? Some have expressed concern that they aren’t notified soon enough.

Poore: On the one side we want to be careful knowing we have enough information to be factual in our response to parents, but we also live in a social media world where everything is so instant. We know were on a push and a timeline to get things out as quick as possible, but we never want to do that unless we have all our story together and our facts.

As soon as we can have something verified we start to work with our principal on a draft for something to shoot to parents. We also always try to put it in the voice of the principal because its someone they know. It can be something simple like ‘we’re working on things, we’ll keep you in the loop, we have a safe and secure building and we’re addressing the issues.

Rodgers: There is a fine line and we need to make sure we notify our parents as quickly as possible. We have to converse with law enforcement to make sure the threat is accurate, not something that’s been repeated out there.

We understand completely about the importance of notifying our parents, but we want to make sure our parents have the correct information.

  • What is the policy for parents sending their kids to school if there was a recent threat? If the school says it is safe and school is open, some parents are still concerned and choose to keep their kid home anyway. How is that handled and will those students be disciplined for staying home?
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Rodgers: I wouldn’t think there was any situation we’d have discipline. If parents want to keep their children home because they’re fearful for the situation, our job is to communicate to them it is safe again and we have a safe environment.

Most recently our school board voted to increase safety in our schools. We’re looking at additional metal detectors and the students have asked for that. We’re working with our police department, they have drones they fly around the schools, they’ve increased patrols.

Poore: We want a proactive approach if there is someone in need. See something, say something.

If a parent feels like their child is dealing with anxiety issues, we want to be a part of that too because if that’s happening and they’re uncomfortable the best thing we can do is understand what that is. We have fantastic school counselors, social workers, teachers, all ready and willing to support young people who are having challenges because we want to address it in a proactive way.

  • How are the students who make a threat disciplined? Under what circumstances are they allowed to return back to school?

Poore: There’s some things that are almost paperwork. If a weapon is brought onto campus, by state law its an expulsion. Depending on the severity of the threat, there are a variety of things we can do as a school district within our handbooks, but it also involved potentially what might happen with law enforcement. Let’s say someone made a bomb threat, that has consequences from a school perspective and from law enforcement.

Rodgers: We’re not taking it lightly. We’re serious about school safety and making threats. If they bring a weapon or make a social media threat to harm or bring a weapon, those are also expellable expenses.

Watch the full interview here.