Citizens of Pine Bluff, Arkansas are still recovering from the devastating Arkansas school shooting that took place on Monday, March 1st at Watson Chapel Junior High School. The shooting resulted in the death of a 15-year-old boy who was in critical condition before passing away days later. The suspected gunman is a 15-year-old classmate of the victim’s and was found hiding behind a house near the school. The shooting appears to be a ‘targeted incident’ according to local police and the suspect’s motives are still under investigation.
Virtual learning was implemented for students the following day, but many students (and their parents) fear returning to school too soon as they don’t feel safe yet.
“I don’t think they need to go back to school right now… my son has been really quiet.”
– Anonymous parent of Watson Chapel Junior High School student
This tragic school shooting comes at a time when many across the country are already taking steps to reduce potential shooting incidents at their schools. Last year, the state of Florida passed Alyssa’s Law – legislation that requires all public schools, including charter schools, to have silent panic button systems connected directly to first responders and law enforcement.
Alyssa’s Law is in effect for 2021 in the state of Florida, which means all schools must achieve compliance before the August 1st deadline. The state of New Jersey has also passed Alyssa’s Law legislation, and various other states are pending legislation.
Arkansas, however, is not one of the states requiring panic button protection in schools as of yet. The recent incident may inspire action, but for the victim who lost his life, and his family, proactive legislation should have come sooner.
Not all panic buttons are created equal, but some do include extra protection in the form of safety apps which provide proactive tip submission functionality along with other resources that help connect students and staff to policymakers and first responders. This tip submission feature, along with the panic button system, could have worked to tip-off suspicious behavior, previous threats, or spotted weapons… thereby preventing a shooting incident from happening altogether.