Taking advantage of a little-known state law that allows schools to have “armed security guards” on campus, an Arkansas school district will be arming up its staff with guns for the fall semester.
According to The Associated Press, 20 teachers, administrators and other school employees at Clarksville H.S., about 100 miles northwest of Little Rock, will be going through a training program at the Nighthawk Custom Training Academy to become certified security guards. The staffers will go through 53 hours of training, involving roleplaying with airsoft pellet guns. The students of participating faculty members are also allowed to take part to make the scenarios more realistic.
While Arkansas is a traditionally conservative and gun-friendly state, no other school district in the state has implemented the policy before now. Like with other school districts nationwide, Clarkville is upping its security in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. this past December.
“We’re not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens,” Clarksville Public Schools Superintendent David Hopkins told the AP. “We’ve got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas.”
According to Hopkins, the district is paying more than $50,000 for the ammunition and Nighthawk training. Participants in the training program will also be given a $1,100 stipend to buy a handgun and a holster.
“They’re not gonna be in a uniform, and they’re not gonna be wagging their gun on their side,” Hopkins told FOX affiliate KNWA. “We’re going to be very discrete about it, but yet we’re going to be trained professionals, and we’re going to be able to provide security for our kids in a matter of seconds instead of minutes.”
Several education officials have expressed opposition to Clarksville’s plan. Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell told the AP that he would have preferred to hire law enforcement officers, as opposed to training current staff, while Donna Morey, a former president of the Arkansas Education Association, believes that arming teachers is an “awful” idea.
“We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon,” she told the AP.
One Clarksville H.S. parent is even taking her son out of the school as a result of the program.
“I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers,” Sherry Wommack, the parent of a rising 8th grader at Clarksville, told the AP.
Many Clarksville residents are receptive to the program, however. Incoming 7th grader Sydney Whitkanack, who’s grown up around firearms and took part in the training scenario, doesn’t have an issue with her teachers packing heat.
“If they’re concealed, then it’s no big deal,” Whitkanack told the AP. “It’s not like someone’s going to know `Oh, they have a firearm.'”