The attorney general of Arkansas has forbidden the state's school districts from taking advantage of a little-known law that would arm teachers as de facto security guards who carry guns on campus. According to the Associated Press, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) ruled that the teachers have not been adequately trained or certified to work as armed security personnel and would therefore pose a safety threat to students.
“Simply put, the code in my opinion does not authorize either licensing a school district as a guard company or classifying it as a private business authorized to employ its own teachers as armed guards,” McDaniel wrote in his decision.
The decision came in response to a plan by the Clarksville School District to distribute 9 mm handguns to 20 teachers in the district. McDaniel wrote that that state board that licenses private security agencies has not certified the school district as a security agency, making Clarksville School District Superintendent David Hopkins' plan illegal.
“Obviously we’re going to comply with the law. We’re not going to break the law,” Hopkins said to the AP. "We wanted to provide the training and give the sense of a secure place for our parents and students. I tell you, this has really thrown a monkey wrench into it.”
Some parents told the AP that they would be taking their children out of Clarksville schools rather than risk their lives at the hands of poorly trained, armed personnel. Sherry Wommack, mother of an eighth grade student, said that teachers shouldn't be making life or death decisions about who to shoot and who not to shoot.
“I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers,” she said.
The question of whether to arm teachers has become a contentious topic in the U.S. after the horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Arming teachers has been the cornerstone of the National Rifle Association’s response to the tragedy in Newtown.
But even in the most conservative states where the measures have been proposed, the AP reported, the initiative is being met with stiff resistance from educators and insurers. Three insurance companies declined to cover Kansas schools earlier this month when the school district publicized its plan to distribute firearms to teachers. The New York Times reported that the Oregon School Boards Association — which underwrites liability for most of the state’s school districts — demanded that an additional $2,500 per year be added to the premiums of employees who will be carrying guns. The board cited risk to students, other teachers and the gun-carriers themselves.
In Arkansas, AG McDaniel said that school districts are free to hire professional security details if they can afford it. He pointed out in his opinion -- which is non-binding -- that schools which are attempting to have personnel certified as security guards are treading on flimsy legal ground.
“If a school district were indeed functioning as a ‘guard company,’" he wrote, "then, it would be organized to provide services to any and all ‘customers’ purely for the purpose of generating income — a private business motivation that is self-evidently anathema to a school district’s purely public functions.”
[image of Dustin McDaniel via arkansasag.gov]