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Arkansas: Schools can’t arm teachers, staff

August 2, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) — Arkansas schools can’t use a little-known state law to employ teachers and staff as gun-toting armed guards on campus, the state’s attorney general said Thursday in an opinion that appears to end one district’s plan to arm more than 20 employees.

The idea of arming schoolhouses against gunmen was hotly debated across America after the school shooting in Connecticut last December that left 20 children and six teachers dead.

The National Rifle Association declared it the best response to serious threats. But even in the most conservative U.S. states, most proposals faltered in the face of resistance from educators or warnings from insurance companies that schools would face higher premiums.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, wrote in a legal opinion issued by his office Thursday that a state board that licenses private security agencies didn’t have the authority to allow districts to employ their teachers and staff as security guards.

A state lawmaker requested the opinion a day after The Associated Press reported on a plan by the Clarksville School District in western Arkansas to use more than 20 teachers and staff as volunteer security guards armed with concealed 9 mm handguns.

David Hopkins, Clarksville’s superintendent, said “Obviously we’re going to comply with the law. We’re not going to break the law.”

“We wanted to provide the training and give the sense of a secure place for our parents and students. I tell you, this has really thrown a monkey wrench into it,” he said.

Participants in Clarksville’s program are given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. Hopkins said the district is paying about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.

The 53-hour training program included roleplaying drills of school shootings, with teachers and staff using “airsoft” pellet guns, with students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.

McDaniel said his opinion wouldn’t affect districts’ ability to contract with private security companies or to use law enforcement as school resource officers.

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