More than 20 teachers, staff in Arkansas district will be armed when school starts
CLARKSVILLE, Ark. – After the tragic events last December in Newtown, Connecticut, school safety has been a hotly contested issue around the nation.
In the Clarksville School District, administrators and staff have decided to take matters into their own hands.
When the school year resumes, the Arkansas school district will have more than 20 teachers, administrators and other school employees carrying concealed weapons throughout the school day, according to a report from the Associated Press.
After undergoing 53 hours of training though the Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas, the staff members will be considered security guards.
Under Arkansas state law, licensed and armed security guards are permitted on campus.
The training by Nighthawk Academy is tailored for teachers to respond to shooters on campus and involves various role-playing scenarios.
“The plan we’ve been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,’” Superintendent David Hopkins told the Associated Press. But as deadly incidents continued to happen in schools, he explained, the district decided, “That’s not a plan.”
Arkansas is a conservative state with a high percentage of gun ownership and lenient gun laws. But until now, no school district has taken advantage of the law that allows school personnel to be armed.
“We’re not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens. We’ve got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas,” Hopkins said. “Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.”
While the community consensus seems to be in support of the idea, there are some who hope to change the policy.
Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell is opposed to the idea of arming staff and would prefer to hire law enforcement resource officers instead.
Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, called the idea of arming teachers “awful.”
“We think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon,” Morey told the AP.
Sherry Wommack, a parent of an upcoming eight-grader, lists the program as one of the reasons she is withdrawing her son from the district.
“I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers,” Wommack was quoted as saying.
The district plans on posting signs at each school to make people aware of the armed guards, but the identities of those carrying the weapons will remain secret.
The district is expecting to pay about $50,000 for ammunition and training, along with a one-time $1,100 stipend for these staff members to purchase a handgun and holster, the story reports.
Those who participate in the program will continue to receive regular training as well, Hopkins said.
By Trevor TenBrink at EAGnews.org