Clarksville School District waiting to see if safety plan can move forward
CLARKSVILLE (KFSM, AP) - Next week, the Clarksville School District could find out if a Board will allow licenses for teachers to carry guns, even though the Attorney General issued an opinion against it.
"We do not agree with the Attorney General's original opinion that we cannot hold that security license," said Superintendent David Hopkins. "We believe we do have the authority, that the [State Board of Private Investigators] had the authority to issue us the license and we believe we have the authority to hang on to that license."
Until now, no Arkansas school district has ever armed teachers on the job, according to the state Department of Education. The closest has been the Lake Hamilton School District, which for years has kept several guns locked up in case of emergency. Only a handful of trained administrators - not teachers - have access to the weapons.
Hopkins said he and other school leaders didn't see why the district couldn't rely on its own staff and teachers to protect students rather than hire someone.
"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."
State officials are not blocking Clarksville's plan, but Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell is opposed to the idea of arming teachers and staff. He prefers to hire law enforcement officers as school resource officers.
Participants in the 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 training is narrowly tailored for teachers to respond to shooters on campus.
The school district has asked for a second opinion from those who issued the permits to school employees.
"It's a no-brainer," said Hopkins. "It should be done. and when we get that in place and we put our security signs up, as a parent myself, I'm gonna feel much better."
District officials are still waiting on licenses for about a third of the teachers and staff members who have had weapons training. Until then, the school district said the plan is on hold.
Click here for more on this story from our CNN affiliate in Northwest Arkansas, KFSM 5NEWS.
Clarksville School District arming more than 20 teachers, staff (July 30)
Ark. AG: Schools can't arm teachers, staff (Aug. 1)
Superintendent: Hiding from gunmen "failed policy" (Aug. 2)
Ark. AG: School must name teachers in gun program (Aug. 5)
Ark. police release documents tied to gun program (Aug. 6)
Clarksville School District going against AG's opinion (Aug. 6)