Guns in Arkansas public schools: An unsettled question | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Guns in Arkansas public schools: An unsettled question

Posted By on Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 8:09 AM

BLACKBOARDS AND BULLETS: Some schools are back on track to have weapons in the hands of staff members on school grounds.
  • BLACKBOARDS AND BULLETS: Some schools are back on track to have weapons in the hands of staff members on school grounds.
Stephens Media's John Lyon reports on the unsettled state of affairs about school districts using their own staff members as armed security after last week's state regulatory board reversal that gave existing security licenses a two-year grandfather period to allow the legislature to clarify whether school employees may be armed on campus.

“The sensational headlines are ‘Arming school teachers,’” Lake Hamilton School District Superintendent Steve Anderson said Friday. “We have no teachers or building-level administrators that are licensed as security officers and never have in our 20-year history of having this program.”

True, but not entirely so. Lake Hamilton has licensed several administrators for years, but kept the guns in a safe for their use The issue became higher profile this year after the Clarksville School District proposed to license 22 staff members, from a kindergarten teacher to building supervisors and administrators, to provide additional security at its five schools. It got 14 applications through the licensing process before an attorney general's opinion put on the brakes.

Over the years, only 13 of Arkansas's more than 250 school districts (counting independent charter school districts) have obtained security guard licenses, which have been used as a loophole to get around a prohibition of guns on campus except in the hands of licenses law officers. Three of those 13 — Pulaski, Little Rock and Fort Smith — don't use the permits for staff.

Notable in the article: A comment from the appointed superintendent of the Pulaski County School District, currently in state receivership:

Jerry Guess, superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, said that although his district is one of those licensed to arm employees, he has no interest in doing so.

“I’m one of those people that think if you’re on the campus and you have a weapon, you should be a duly licensed law enforcement agent,” he said.

I've asked Dr. David Hopkins, superintendent at Clarksville, about his district's plans and whether those who are licensed will begin carrying concealed weapons Monday. The district spent $70,000 on training for the employees and gave them a $1,000 stipend to purchase semi-automatic pistols, ammo and holsters. I've also asked about plans for those eight who didn't complete the licensing process.

Lyons notes that, despite little interest among the majority of school districts to arm staff and even some resistance, some legislators hope to open up the law to armed teachers and administrators.

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