Monday, September 16, 2013

13 Arkansas School Districts can arm Teachers and Staff

A state board voted Wednesday to allow 13 school districts in Arkansas to continue using teachers, administrators and other staff as armed guards, despite a warning from the state's top attorney that the licensing law they relied upon was intended for private businesses. 
After initially voting to revoke two districts' licenses classifying them as private security firms, the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies decided to allow the schools to keep them for two more years. The panel had voted to suspend the schools' licenses last month after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said they shouldn't have been issued to the schools.
Clarksville, a 2,500-student district in western Arkansas, had trained 22 teachers and staff this year to work as volunteer armed security guards. Licenses for 14 of those trained had already been approved by the state. McDaniel's opinion was requested a day after The Associated Press profiled the district's security plan. 
Participants in Clarksville's program were given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. The 53-hour training program for participants included roleplaying drills of school shootings, with teachers and staff using "airsoft" pellet guns and students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.
Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins pleaded with the panel to allow his school to keep the licenses, saying it was a cheaper option than hiring private security guards or paying for police to act as school resource officers. Hopkins said the district has spent about $70,000 for training and stipends for program participants to buy handguns. 
"Our whole point and goal here was to provide meaningful security for our kids, but do it in an economical way," Hopkins said.
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