conservative state to give teachers handguns. But soaring insurance
costs have often made such programs prohibitively expensive.
staff with handguns starting in the fall, reigniting debate about the
best way to protect children in schools.
The district will be the first in the state to arm teachers and is
doing so under a state law that allows licensed, armed security guards
on campus. The school’s participants in the program, whose identities
will be kept secret, will be considered security guards after
undergoing 53 hours of training.
“The plan we’ve been given in the past is, ‘Well, lock your doors,
turn off your lights and hope for the best,’” Superintendent David
Hopkins told the Associated Press. “That’s not a plan.”
Mr. Hopkins said a wave of parent calls after the Sandy Hook
Elementary School shootings last December caused him to reevaluate
their procedures, even though the town of 9,200 people about 100 miles
northwest of Little Rock isn’t known for being dangerous.
State officials have not blocked the plan, even though Arkansas
Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell has said that he opposes arming
teachers and staff. Instead, he supports hiring law enforcement
officers as school resource officers.
Participating staff in Clarksville’s schools will be given a one-time
$1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. The district will
pay about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom
Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.
“That teacher is going to respond to one thing and one thing alone,
and that’s someone is in the building either actively or attempting to
kill people,” Jon Hodoway, director of training for Nighthawk said.
“That’s it. They’re not going to enforce the law. They’re not going to
make traffic stops. If somebody is outside acting the fool, they’re
going to call the police.”
At a recent training session teachers and administrators practiced
using airsoft pellet guns to shoot a student pretending to hold
another at gunpoint.
One of the student simulators, Sydney Whitkanack, said she’s not
concerned about having teachers or staff armed.
“If they’re concealed, then it’s no big deal,” she said. “It’s not
like someone’s going to know, ‘Oh, they have a firearm.’”
Others, like former president of the Arkansas Education Association
Donna Morey, strongly opposed the plan, citing concerns over a student
accidentally getting shot or taking a gun.
“We just think educators should be in the business of educating
students, not carrying a weapon,” she said.
The Clarksville school district is the latest example of localities
trying to form responses to the Sandy Hook shooting last December that
killed 20 children and six teachers.
Like Clarksville, some districts have decided to beef up armed
security, in line with the National Rifle Association’s recommendation
for every school to have an armed security guard, police officer, or
In May, a rural Colorado school district voted to allow two top
administrators to carry guns. They were able to circumvent Colorado’s
gun laws by changing the job title of the superintendent to security
officer. In Arizona’s Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio organized a
posse of armed volunteers to patrol local schools, although he drew
criticism for hiring a former child-sex offender.
In 2013, seven states passed legislation permitting teachers or
administrators to carry guns in schools and more than 30 state
legislatures introduced bills that would permit staff members to carry
guns in public or private schools, according to the National
Conference of State Legislatures.
But most proposals to arm teachers or staff have failed, even in
conservative states more likely to support an expanded role for guns,
according to The New York Times.
A key reason for fewer districts arming teachers is the potential
cost, according to the Times report. Some insurance companies are
declining coverage to schools that allow employees to carry handguns,
or are raising their premiums.
In Kansas, for instance, the liability insurance provider for about 90
percent of Kansas school districts said it would not cover schools
that permit employees to carry concealed handguns. A dozen Kansas
school districts that were considering arming their staff changed
their minds after the decision, the state employee who oversees
insurance programs at the Kansas Association of School boards told the
“Some [insurance providers] are saying this is so high risk we’re not
going to touch it,” Kenneth Trump, the president of National School
Safety and Security Services, which discourages districts from
implementing concealed carry policies told the Times. “Others may say
this is so high risk that you’re going to pay through the nose.”