NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Twice this year graduations in central Arkansas have ended with parents and high schoolers hearing gunshots.
Last Thursday, one person was killed and three others injured in Hot Springs just outside the graduation venue, and Tuesday in North Little Rock high schoolers and their families were told to stay inside while a gunfight outside the ticket office was investigated.
Thankfully, no one has been reported hurt in the latest shots fired incident, but it raises the question of what can be done, if anything, to focus on safety outside graduations in the future?
“I’m a little nervous,” admitted Nickey Nichols.
Her son graduates this weekend from the Pulaski County Special School District (PCCSD), and because of what their district is doing, she has extra confidence.
“He’s better equipped to make decisions and not react,” explained Nichols.
Nichols is not only a parent. She is the Response to Intervention and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support coordinator for PCCSD. Through Positive Behavior Intervention (PBIS) and Support, every grade level and every student is rewarded for doing what is expected of him. It was implemented district-wide three years ago, and in that time campus incidents have more than halved. Discipline referrals have similarly gone down.
Conflict resolution is a big topic used in recent years for preventing disagreements, arguments, or fights from becoming more violent. PBIS focuses on rewarding good behavior through individual and class-based rewards.
As Nichols explained the program, “I shouldn’t just say behaving but teaching them how to be productive citizens in the world.”
PBIS goes all the way from elementary to 12th grade, in the past even offering tech gifts like hoverboards, headphones, movie viewings, or field trips for students and classes who accumulate enough points.
Nichols says a focus behavior enables better education. She’s also hopeful it is adopted in more schools across the state.
“I know some people will go that’s not a part of your job. Yes, it is. It’s a part of us taking care of the whole child. Not just the academic piece,” Nichols concluded.
Wednesday afternoon, the North Little Rock School District released a statement regarding the shooting saying:
“The North Little Rock School District values the safety and security of students, staff, and the public. It is unfortunate that the events following commencement happened; however, please know that we are already working with the North Little Rock Police Department, the administration, and other stakeholders to take additional steps to prevent what occurred from happening again. Please do not allow last evening’s events to overshadow the moment. Join us in celebrating the Class of 2022 and their outstanding achievements.”
North Little Rock Police do not know who fired the gun or if it was a student. The shooting is still being investigated.