LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas school districts can’t use a little-known state law to employ teachers and staff as guards who can carry guns on campus, the state’s attorney general said Thursday in an opinion that likely ends a district’s plan to arm more than 20 employees when school starts later this year.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote in a legal opinion issued by his office that a state board that licenses private security agencies didn’t have the authority to allow districts to employ their teachers and staff as security guards. A state lawmaker requested the opinion a day after The Associated Press reported on a plan by the Clarksville School District in western Arkansas to use more than 20 teachers and staff as volunteer security guards armed with concealed 9 mm handguns.
"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.
David Hopkins, Clarksville’s superintendent, said he had spoken with McDaniel earlier Thursday about the opinion. Hopkins said he was still reviewing the opinion but that "it sounds like he’s saying that we can’t do the program."
"Obviously we’re going to comply with the law. We’re not going to break the law," said Hopkins, who had appeared on NBC’s "Today" show Thursday morning to tout the program. "We wanted to provide the training and give the sense of a secure place for our parents and students.
Participants in Clarksville’s program are given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. Hopkins said the district is paying about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.
The training included roleplaying drills of school shootings, with teachers and staff using "airsoft" pellet guns, with students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.
The Lake Hamilton District has been using the same law for years to train a handful of administrators as security guards, but the guns are locked away and not carried by the administrators during the school day.
Bill Sadler, a spokesman for Arkansas State Police, said pending applications by two or three districts for similar licenses have been put on hold because of McDaniel’s opinion. Sadler said it will be up to the licensing board on what to do with the dozen existing licenses.
"We’ve got to hear from the board what they want us to do with the existing licenses that are out there," Sadler said. "Until we hear that and get some clear guidance from the board, we’re in a holding pattern"
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