A small town in northwest Arkansas gave $1,100 to more than 20 teachers and other school staff in order to buy handguns and holsters.
The state of Arkansas has a law on the books that allows schools to have licensed, armed security guards on campus. The town of Clarksville, with a population of 9,200 people, decided to train its school personnel to be security guards and carry concealed weapons throughout the school day. When school starts again in August, teachers will be packing heat.
School Superintendent David Hopkins said the decision came after he received a flurry of calls from anxious parents in the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
"The plan we've been given in the past is 'Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'" Hopkins said. After Sandy Hook, the district decided, “That’s not a plan."
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Hopkins said the district spent about $50,000 on ammunition and training, including various role-playing scenarios involving shooters on campus -- using real students participation. The identities of the teachers, who underwent 53 hours of firearms training, are being withheld.
The Clarksville program is the kind of measure the National Rifle Association proposed after the tragedy at Sandy Hook left 20 children and 6 teachers dead in Newtown, Conn.
"We're not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won't have to have unless something happens," Hopkins said. "We've got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas. Hopefully we'll never have to use them as a security guard."
At least one parent is not happy with the armed teachers program. Sherry Womack said she is pulling her eighth grade son out of Clarksville’s schools.
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"I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers," Womack told the Associated Press.
The former president of the Arkansas Education Association, Donna Morey, told the Miami Herald that the idea of arming teachers is "awful." She said the measure is too much of a risk to students.
"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," Morey said.