Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Clarksville schools armed for the new year UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 10:30 AM

I've been meaning to ask:

ARMED: Some staff members at Clarksville High School will carry weapons now.
  • ARMED: Some staff members at Clarksville High School will carry weapons now.
What about arming faculty in Arkansas schools, elementary through high school? Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell favors, where guns are used in campus, to have them in the hands of regular law enforcement officers. But schools may arm staff if they complete courses sufficient for private security guards to carry arms at work.

Several districts have plans to take advantage of this option. But the Clarksville School District seems to be leading the way. More than 20 staff members will carry weapons in the next school year. The district has five schools and about 2,400 students, so there are roughly four armed staff members per school and about one per 100 students.

This summary from the AP quotes the district leader as being motivated by parents' concerns following the Connecticut school shootings. Clarksville isn't known as a school troublespot.

WALTHER PPS: Chosen for Clarksville schools.
  • WALTHER PPS: Chosen for Clarksville schools.
UPDATE: I spoke with Superintendent David Hopkins this morning about some of the nuts and bolts.

The district isn't being specific about the precise number of people trained and where they are assigned for security reasons, he said. The district paid $50,000 to Nighthawk Custom Training of Bentonville to train the armed staff members. The training included 53 hours of instruction, well beyond the 10 required for private certified security guards. He said training will continue through the year and with annual summer refreshers.

The district provided an $1,100 stipend to each participating staff member, more than enough to purchase 9-millimeter pistols provided at a group price by the Walther Arms company in Fort Smith (the PPS model — touted by the company as "slim, light and comfortable to wear all day long" — and also the PPQ), holsters and ammunition. The district has also provided each staffer with 50 rounds of practice ammo and a couple of boxes of "carry" ammo. The pistols have 7- to 8-round stacked magazines, Hopkins said. Larger magazines would have required larger weapons and he said the district wanted the weapons small enough to be concealed. He said the aim is for the weapons to be concealed, such as by elastic holsters worn under shirts or in bras or in ankle holsters, he said. "It's not a quick draw, but that's not what we're going for," Hopkins said.

Hopkins said large signs will be posted on the schools noting the premises are protected by armed staff. He said the addition of armed staff was efficient, with a cost of roughly $50,000, about enough to hire one full-time armed resource officer. The district currently employs one.

"It's very safe what we're doing," he said. "There are not going to be any accidental discharges. The only time they will access weapons is in the event of an active shooter. We just pray that will never happen."

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