More than just familiar faces and homework will greet students returning to class this fall at Clarksville High School in Arkansas. An Arkansas state law has been enacted, which will arm teachers with live weapons and ammunition, reports the Las Vegas Sun on July 30.
Putting weapons into the hands of administrators, teachers and principals has been suggested and contested with mounting tension in light of the increased incidents of school shootings.
A little-known Arkansas state law, which allows licensed, armed security guards to patrol school campuses, has served as a touchstone to implement the new regulations, putting concealed handguns under the charge of 20 school officials.
School Superintendent David Hopkins, discouraged that a more permanent solution was not passed to deal with school shootings, fully supports the armed initiative.
“The plan we’ve been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,’” Superintendent Hopkins said. But as incidents like the shooting in Connecticut last December that left 20 children and six teachers dead continue to happen, he explained, as a district it was decided, “That’s not a plan.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Education, no school district in the state had petitioned to use the law to arm their teachers. Nevertheless, Clarksville School, which has never been the site of any gun-related incident thus far, sees the action as a preventative measure and hopes that other schools will join suit.
Hopkins said teachers are already on staff and, once appropriately trained, are the ideal candidates to act as first-responders to prevent or respond to a school shooting.
“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 [teachers] who are already hired and we are using them in other areas,” Hopkins said. “Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.”
Administrators will have to undergo 53 hours of formal firearm training, and then will be given a stipend to purchase a weapon under school oversight. The total cost of the program is approximately $50,000, said Hopkins.
Not surprisingly, the district has already dealt with its fair share of dissenters.
Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell is opposed to the initiative, as is Donna Morey, the former president of the Arkansas Education Association. Morey said the idea of arming random teachers is “awful,” and said that an accidental discharge of the weapon or students obtaining the weapon without the teacher’s knowledge are both much more likely than an actual school shooting situation.
“We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon,” Morey said.
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