Arkansas Republican Asa Hutchinson outlined plans to protect schools from violence Tuesday, as part of a national “School Shield” program backed by the National Rifle Association.
Hutchinson, a GOP candidate for Governor in 2014, presented eight recommendations from the 225-page report that included placing trained armed guards in schools. He says there is a two-tier system of security in the nation’s schools.
“You have the security that’s represented by the largest school districts that have invested over really decades in school officers, technology, surveillance, magnetometers, and policy development,” said Hutchinson. “Then you have the different tier of school safety which are the smaller schools the middle-size schools and those that have resource challenges.”
Many of the recommendations in the report are directed at smaller and mid-sized schools, because Hutchinson says they need additional support to ensure the safety of their students. Some of the other initiatives unveiled in the report include:
- Creation of an "online self assessment tool" that school administrators could use to gauge the adequacy of their districts' security programs.
- Changes in state education policies to require that school districts conduct safety assessments.
- The NRA continuing the "School Shield" program launched by the task force and making it an umbrella organization to advocate and support school safety.
Hutchinson is a former congressman and the former head of the Drug Enforcement Agency. He was asked by the NRA to assemble a team and come up with strategies for strengthening school security, after a massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut in December 2012.
The American Federation of Teachers is denouncing aspects of the school safety report, especially suggestions that schools train selected staff to carry weapons, and that each school should have at least one armed security officer. The head of the teachers' group calls the idea a "cruel hoax" that won't protect children and schools.