NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — A new state law seeks to add an extra layer of protection for school districts when students with a criminal past transfer in.
In March, Arkansas legislators approved HB1551, now Act 647.
More than 30 people on average move to Northwest Arkansas each day, and that means more students enroll in our schools.
With Act 647, more information on the background of students transferring into schools will be available with the purpose of providing help for them and to ensure school safety.
“The more you know about any student that comes into your district, the better off you are,” says Rick Schaeffer, Communications Director for Springdale Public Schools. “Safety for your kids is the first concern any administration has.”
The law requires prosecutors to notify a district if a juvenile student is convicted of an offense involving a deadly weapon, kidnapping, battery in the first degree, sexual indecency with a child, sexual assault, or unlawful possession of a handgun.
With this new law, if a student transfers, the prosecutor also has to inform the new school district.
Schaeffer adds, “You can provide whatever extra services are necessary. We do have social workers in our schools, we have counselors in our schools, we can certainly give whatever extra attention is necessary.”
Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith says he’s surprised the law passed because there’s no automatic way that the state becomes aware that a student is transferring.
“The policy goal I think is a good goal. The implementation of it will be difficult, if not impossible for some cases,” Smith said. “The problem there is that we simply do not have the knowledge of a student transferring schools in the midst of a prosecution any more than we would have the knowledge of an adult changing jobs.”
While both agree communication between a school district and law enforcement is vital, Smith says there will have to be changes to this legislation.
“If it’s something that school districts need in the future, we probably should amend the law in the future to make sure we achieve the goals set out by the law,” Smith said.
The law will take effect this summer.