CLARKSVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The superintendent of an Arkansas school district who wanted to let teachers and janitors carry 9mm handguns on campus said Friday that the district will find other ways to protect its 2,500 students after the attorney general said the gun plan was flawed.
The Clarksville School District was poised to let more than 20 employees carry weapons on school property when classes open this month. But on Thursday, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said the state's private investigator licensing board didn't have the authority to designate school workers as security guards.
Superintendent David Hopkins decried what he called the "failed policy of lock the door and hide," but said he would comply with McDaniel's ruling while seeking other ways to patrol his district's campuses.
"We've got budgetary limits and we were trying to put together a comprehensive program with trained, good people to take care of our kids, work in tandem with our local police agencies," Hopkins said Friday. "This has now really derailed that plan."
He said local law enforcement agencies cannot afford to put officers in every school and that the district doesn't have money to hire outside officers.
After 20 students were fatally shot at a Connecticut elementary school, several states explored ways to protect students from intruders. In Arkansas, districts turned to a portion of the state's private-investigator law that allows commissioned security guards to carry weapons on campus.
McDaniel said the law applies to private companies, not public bodies. Hopkins disagreed with the interpretation.
"What I find most unfortunate about it is that ... those with power get to go back to their offices that are protected by armed guards, and we that are trying to take care of our kids, we get to go back to the failed policy of lock the door and hide and hope for the best," Hopkins said.
A legislator had asked McDaniel to address whether letting teachers carry guns was legal. Sherry Wommack, whose son formerly attended Clarksville schools, said she was grateful McDaniel intervened.
"When they decided that they would have teachers carry, well not just teachers, but 20 employees — being teachers, janitors and other staff — carrying guns in school, it kind of, with some other things that had happened to us, led us to decide that we wouldn't let our child go there anymore and we would transfer him to another school," she said Friday.
"I'm glad that somebody is stepping forward for the sake of the kids and the protection of them," she said.
Ralph Sims, the head of the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies, said school security measures would likely come up at its next meeting Aug. 14. He declined to comment on previous board actions authorizing gun-toting teachers.