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HOT SPRINGS -- A legislative review may be on the horizon for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, a state representative said Wednesday.

The possibility of a legislative review follows Monday's board of visitors meeting at the school, where multiple grievances were aired during the public-comment portion of the proceedings.

Concerns raised included disapproval of the dismissal of former employee Valerie Carpenter; the displeasure and discomfort caused to parents and students mandated to participate in the activity known as a "privilege walk" that some say became a source of bullying; fear of retaliation toward faculty members and students from the administration; and an overall lack of transparency from the school administration.

A 17-year-old boy said he was sexually assaulted on campus and that no action had been taken by the administration after he reported the incident three weeks ago, with the alleged assailant remaining on campus.

Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, said he attended the meeting to support a family of constituents from his district who voiced concerns to the board.

Smith is the House majority whip and serves on the Joint Performance Review Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.

He also serves as an associate professor of Security and Global Studies at the online American Military University.

"I did mention to some of the advisory board following the meeting that even if only 3[%] or 4% of the allegations are true, there are still big problems that need to be resolved," Smith said.

Smith said he has reached out to Garland County legislators regarding the issues raised at the school in the days after the meeting.

"They are all supportive of maybe having the administrators come to the capital for some kind of review," he said. "Maybe some kind of Joint Performance review or Education Committee review."

The Joint Performance Review Committee has the "authority to make random and periodic performance reviews of specific governmental programs and agencies; conduct investigations into specific problem areas of the administration of state government as may be brought to the attention of the committee; refer specific problems regarding the operation of state government to appropriate interim committees of the General Assembly for continuing study; and conduct hearings on citizen complaints and views regarding the operation of state government and serve as a forum for citizens to air their complaints and suggestions regarding the operation of state government," among others, according to the Arkansas Legislature's website.

The Education Committee reviews matters "pertaining to public kindergarten, elementary, secondary, and adult education, vocational education, vocational-technical schools, vocational rehabilitation, higher education, private educational institutions, similar legislation, and resolutions germane to the subject matter of the committee," the website says.

"We need to resolve these issues before they get worse," Smith said.

Metro on 05/16/2019

Print Headline: Lawmaker suggests review of school


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