Arkansas Panel Allows 13 School Districts to Arm Teachers, Staff

A state board voted to grant a two-year extension for 13 districts to arm their teachers and staff.

A faculty member in Clarksville, Ark., carries an air-powered practice handgun during a July training exercise, as students, lying on the floor, portray victims. A state board voted on Sept. 11, 2013 to allow 13 districts to train teachers and staff as armed guards.
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An Arkansas state board voted on Wednesday to allow 13 school districts to train their teachers and staff as armed guards, by using a state law under which the districts license themselves as private companies.

After Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an advisory opinion last month that a school district could not be considered a private company under the law, the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies initially voted to revoke two districts' licenses.

[READ: After Newtown Shooting, Parents Remain Concerned About School Safety]

"It does not authorize the licensing of a political subdivision such as a school district, which is neither in itself 'private' nor authorized to establish a separate 'private' identity," McDaniel said in the opinion. "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."

But on Wednesday, the board decided to give the schools a two-year extension to give state lawmakers more time to examine how a school could use its own staff as armed guards, but will not accept new applications for licenses.

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead, states across the country have looked for ways to better protect children in school. Although Arkansas state law prohibits guns in schools, it makes an exception for licensed security guards. Several districts applied for and were granted licenses as private businesses and trained teachers and staff to act as armed security guards.

[ALSO: At Least 7 States Now Have Armed Staff in Schools]

The Clarksville School District, for example, spent approximately $70,000 to arm and train 22 teachers and staff. The volunteers were granted a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster and went through 53 hours of training.

The licensed districts have said training their own staff is cheaper than employing private security guards or hiring police officers.

The Arkansas Department of Education declined to comment on the issue, saying it deferred to the board.

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