Commentary by Trevor TenBrink of EAGnews.org.
An Arkansas state board voted on Wednesday to allow teachers, administrators and other staff members to serve as armed guards.
The Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies voted to allow 13 school districts to be classified as private security firms, reports the Associated Press.
The decision comes after a vote last month in which the panel voted to suspend the schools’ licenses.
The original decision to deny districts the licenses was a result of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel stating that the schools should have never been issued the licenses to begin with.
McDaniel stated last month that the licensing law the schools had relied on was only intended for private security companies. Arkansas state law prohibits guns on campus, but an exception is included for licensed security guards.
Members of the board said that the two-year reprieve would give the Legislature a chance to discuss ways that schools could employ their staff as armed guards. However, the panel will not be accepting any new applications from school districts that wish to train and arm staff as security guards during this time, reports the story.
“The board just simply said that according to the definition, a school district does not qualify as a private company so we’re not gonna approve any new applications,” said Ralph Sims, AR Private Security Agencies Board Chairman. “The ones that are already in place will be allowed to remain until the Legislature has the opportunity to rule on them.”
Clarksville school district is one of the several districts who will have armed staff members in place starting today.
Superintendent David Hopkins told 5news that he plans for his 13 licensed teachers and staff to carry firearms Thursday in the classroom. They will also be wearing white private security badges to go along with their weapons.
AR Private Security Agencies Board member Jack Acre does not agree with the decision. “If you’re a teacher, you can’t teach school and be a security guard,” the report stated.
However, there are many around the state who feel that arming teachers is smart for both student safety and financial purposes.
Hopkins estimates that the district has spent $68,000 on stipends and training for the program. If they were to hire a school resource officer to patrol the buildings, it would have cost the district approximately $50,000, Hopkins told 5news.
“Our whole point and goal here was to provide meaningful security for our kids, but do it in an economical way,” Hopkins said.
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