School districts back to arming employees as security

HOT SPRINGS (AP) -- Thursday marked the first day 13 Arkansas school districts can once again have school employees arm themselves with guns.

It's a controversial issue around the state, but one district gave Channel Seven its reasoning behind its decision.

With a district enrollment of 620 students, Cutter Morning Star School District in Garland County says it doesn't have enough money to hire security guards; it only has the manpower to protect students.

The school campus is on the edge of Highway 70 in Hot Springs, and inside its buildings are more than just teachers, some of those educators are licensed security guards.

"If I had the funds to sufficiently cover my district, I would much rather go with a school resource officer, but to the get the same coverage that we have now, you're talking over $200,000 a year," said Cutter Morning Star Superintendent Nancy Anderson.

Anderson is in her second-year as the superintendent, and she chooses this security option in fear her school's location poses a problem for emergency response time.

"Best case scenario, seven minutes. A lot can happen in seven minutes," she said of the estimated response time in an emergency situation.

Cutter is also a school that's on constant lock down, needing an employee badge or the front desk to buzz you in. A recent scare serves as a scary reminder that safety never takes a day off.

"(There was) a drug bust during the middle of the school day. We had kids out on the playground and it was literally right across the street in a subdivision," Anderson added.

"We had no knowledge of it, the people tried to flee, and we're right here."

The other 12 districts that received proper licensed to implement this system are Poyen, Lake Hamilton, Clarksville, Ashdown, Concord, Fort Smith, Lee County, Little Rock, Nettleton-Jonesboro, Pulaski County Special School District, Texarkana and Jonesboro-Westside.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel submitted an opinion that goes against the board's decision. Thursday his office released this statement only to Channel Seven saying:

"The board has primary authority to interpret its governing law. Attorney General's opinions are non binding, and are not based on any fact-finding efforts. The board engaged in substantial fact-finding and exercised its best judgment under the circumstances. We are pleased to represent the board, and if it is sued over this decision, we will represent the board and defend its decision."

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