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Monday, August 19, 2013

Plan To Arm Teachers Is Blocked In Arkansas

In this photo taken July 11, 2013, practice air-powered handguns sit on a teacher's desk in a classroom at Clarksville High School in Clarksville, Ark. Twenty Clarksville School District staff members are training during the summer to be armed security guards on campus. (Danny Johnston/AP)

In this photo taken July 11, 2013, practice air-powered handguns sit on a teacher’s desk in a classroom at Clarksville High School in Clarksville, Ark. Twenty Clarksville School District staff members are training during the summer to be armed security guards on campus. (Danny Johnston/AP)

After 20 children and six teachers were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. in December, school officials across the country began to look at different ways to keep students safe.

All schools have emergency plans, some schools have armed security personnel, but David Hopkins, superintendent of Clarksville School District in Arkansas, wants his teachers armed.

You have got to meet that person with the same sort of an armed resistance, to either disrupt what he is trying to do, or eliminate that threat all together.
– David Hopkins, superintendent

After 53 hours of training, 22 volunteers in the district were certified as security guards.

The team was to be armed with small pistols, concealed under faculty and staffs’ clothing during the school day. But Clarksville’s program was suspended.

The county is one of 13 whose license allowing weapons to be carried on campus was revoked by the same state regulatory board that issued them.

The board reversed the decision at the recommendation of Arkansas’ Attorney General citing legal issues with the provision.

Superintendent Hopkins told Here & Now that arming teachers in his schools would create an “equal force” against an intruder.

“You have got to meet that person with the same sort of an armed resistance, to either disrupt what he is trying to do, or eliminate that threat all together,” Hopkins said.

Arkansas’ Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said that he is of a different opinion than Superintendent Hopkins.

“I’m just real concerned when we began to arm individuals in our public schools that are not constantly trained, have not been put in those situations in real life,” Kimbrell told Here & Now.

In 60 days, the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies will have individual revocation hearings for all those with commissions.

Until then, the schools will have to depend on resource officers and their previous emergency plans.

Guest

  • David Hopkins, superintendent of the Clarksville School District in Arkansas.
  • Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas Commissioner of Education.

Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. How far should a school go to keep students safe? One district in Arkansas wants to arm some of its teachers. David Hopkins is the superintendent of the Clarksville District schools, and after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Hopkins decided to provide concealed weapons to 22 of his teachers, secretaries and administrators to supplement the law enforcement resource officer in charge of school security.

They all received extensive training. The plan was to have four armed employees also act as private security guards in each of Clarksville's schools. That was the plan. However, following a recommendation by the Arkansas attorney general, a state regulatory board has decided to suspend such private security guard licenses for 13 Arkansas school districts, including Clarksville.

Superintendent David Hopkins joins us, and superintendent, take us back to the original thinking behind your plan to arm some of Clarksville's teachers.

DAVID HOPKINS: Well, obviously the tragedy at Sandy Hook is really what propelled this to the forefront. We asked ourselves that really difficult question, that if a person comes through your front door, and they're armed, and their intent is to kill as many people as they can in your school, what do you do at that point? And, you know, certainly call the police, but what do you do between the time that the police are on their way, and you've got that person in your building?

And it was at that revelation, so to speak, that we realized that you have got to have equal force. You have got to meet that person wish some sort of an armed resistance to either disrupt what he's trying to do or possibly eliminate that threat altogether.

CHAKRABARTI: Tell us a little bit more about the program. What kind of training did these folks go through?

HOPKINS: We found a company in northwest Arkansas that basically the people that work for that company, they are law enforcement trainers. And they worked with us to put together a plan to where our people received some of the best, if not better, training than what they would have received had they gone to the academy.

At the police academies, you get a 40-hour block of firearms training, and our people receive 53 hours of training.

CHAKRABARTI: What kind of weapon would they have carried if they had been allowed to?

HOPKINS: I believe it is a PPS model, which is a slim model, nine millimeter, single stack, and it's kind of a compromise because it handles less ammunition than a full-sized pistol, but yet it allows a person to comfortably conceal that firearm. And that's what we were wanting to do. We did not want this to be an overt operation. We did not want, you know, pistols hanging on the outside of our teachers. We just wanted people that were in place that could respond within seconds given one of those worst-case scenarios.

CHAKRABARTI: I hear your point about worst-case scenario and external threats to the school. But I think some people were concerned about the possibility of something happening internally. What if students, or a student inside the classroom, somehow got their hands on the gun that one of these 22 staff members were carrying, that there's a lot of safety issues within the classrooms themselves when you introduce a firearm.

HOPKINS: Well, currently you've got firearms that are introduced into classrooms all over the country via the resource officer. Our resource officer, in fact, teaches classes for us here. And, you know, that does not seem to cause an issue. And in fact our individuals, the firearm would not even be exposed, it would be concealed. So I think the chances of that are being blown way out of proportion and are very, very, very, very minimal.

CHAKRABARTI: Now, I've read that some parents have taken their children out of the Clarksville School District because they're just concerned about having armed staff of any kind.

HOPKINS: There certainly have been some that have expressed that, and I believe there have been some that have transferred because of that. But, you know, a few years ago we went through another program where we purchased computers, a netbook, and put it in the hands of every kid six through 12. And I actually had more people transfer out of the district because of that. They said that their kids learn better with books than with computers. And so we lost more kids over that than the issue with the guns.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, David Hopkins is the superintendent of the Clarksville School District in Arkansas. Superintendent Hopkins, thanks for speaking with us today.

HOPKINS: You're very welcome, thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, let's get another perspective. Tom Kimbrell is the education commissioner for the state of Arkansas. He's not a member of the regulatory board that made this licensing decision but he agrees that teachers should not be armed. Commissioner, welcome, and what is your primary concern?

TOM KIMBRELL: Well, I think what's driven the concern for us as an agency, me personally, and I think what has brought the national attention to this is that this is not new to schools. We have several schools, I believe 12 additional schools, that have commissioned their own security guards. But they don't arm those individuals.

In this case, you're talking about putting live ammunition and weapons on a person to be carried, you know, every day, all day long, whereas these districts that have commissioned these guards, only in one situation that I'm aware of, one individual enforcement who is the direct of safety, who is also an officer of the local police department, actually carries a weapon.

Another school district, the Lake Hamilton School District, actually has commissioned security guards that are administrators and others. They have weapons on the campus, but they're locked in rooms and in safes where if something does happen they have access, and only those individuals have access, but they're not actually carrying the weapon on them throughout the day, every day, and into other events.

CHAKRABARTI: As they would have been in Clarksville if their plan had been approved.

KIMBRELL: It's my understanding is Clarksville would have had these individuals carrying these loaded firearms every day, all day, at school and possibly even at other school events.

CHAKRABARTI: So we just heard Superintendent David Hopkins tell us that he did this because of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, and that he didn't want a worst-case scenario to happen in one of his schools in Clarksville. I mean, do you think he had the right idea, or do you disagree that concealed weapons are the way to provide that security?

KIMBRELL: I've heard the superintendent from Newtown speak on this matter, and she was just adamant that the reaction of arming individuals that are not trained law officers into schools was not the answer to this question of creating safety in our public schools. So Mr. Hopkins and I, we agree to disagree that we have a different perspective on this.

I'm just real concerned when we begin to arm individuals in our public schools that are not constantly trained, have not been put in those situations in real life.

CHAKRABARTI: We heard David Hopkins say that in that worst-case scenario, there's this critical period of time between when an assailant might enter a school and when law enforcement can get there. And, you know, according to him, he thinks that having armed teachers would be the best way to handle that critical period of time. I mean, what other forms of security might you be able to suggest could be alternatively used?

KIMBRELL: Well, I think there's a litany of things that can happen. I mean, we have schools in some of our communities that have metal detectors. I think there are things that are being done to construct areas in which people have to enter the buildings, everything else is locked up, you can't enter but from one access point. And there are issues of personnel, such as resource officers and how many resource officers your district is willing to invest in for the safety of your children.

So in Arkansas, schools are given local and state money to make decisions about how they allocate those funds to educate, transport and ensure the safety and well-being of the children.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Tom Kimbrell is the commissioner for education for the state of Arkansas. Mr. Kimbrell, thank you so much for joining us today.

KIMBRELL: Thank you, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that discussion.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, in that worst-case scenario, the one we hope we never have to face, what do you think? How can schools best keep students safe in that critical period before law enforcement arrives? We'd love to know what you think. Let us know at hereandnow.org. News is next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • Colliewalker

    There is no safety for anyone facing an assault weapon. There will be deaths when and intruder can fire off many bullets per second. Arming the teachers will not prevent this from happening. It is simply faulty reasoning to think it will.

    • fun bobby

      so I guess we should just give up? have you heard of deterrence? don’t you think its an odd coincidence that these things seem to happen exclusively in places that are called “gun free zones”?

    • road.rep

      If I had to choose between an unarmed person facing an assault weapon, and an armed person facing that same assault weapon, I’m going with the armed person. At least they have a chance. The unarmed person is going to die…..period. The faulty reasoning is thinking that both the armed and unarmed people have the same chance against the intruder.

  • RAOUL ORNELAS

    The real revelation is this: Ban assault rifles! What will happen if a kid brings a hidden bomb into a classroom? Will the NRA nuts advocate for children and teachers to wear bomb protective vests and to have bomb sniffing dogs in every class room? The problem with all these worthless Second Amendment gun right nuts is that they are driven by NRA fear ideology which translates into selling more guns. Children, teenagers, and people with mental issues don’t need to own assault riffles or hand guns. The funny thing concerning mental issues, is the majority of deaths caused by guns were performed by people who did not have mental issues just angst issues caused by right wing ideology. Teachers are hired to teach not be some sort of armed force carrying guns in a classroom.

    • fun bobby

      you are trippin’.
      how would your assault weapon ban affect your hypothetical bomber?
      we already did ban assault weapons. it was ineffective at preventing school shootings. we tried it for a whole decade. it failed
      most of the recent mass shootings were performed by democrats.
      why should a teacher’s right to defend themselves be any less than anyone else’s?

      • RAOUL

        They say you can’t debate a person with schizophrenia or dementia or is high on something. Question: Which profile does Mr. Fun Bobby belong too?

        • fun bobby

          ah when your argument falls apart because its baloney then begin the ad hominem attacks. why is it those who hate liberty can’t have an honest debate? (thanks for the laugh at your predictable pathetic behavior)

    • road.rep

      Raoul, you are crazy! I hope you never get your hands on a weapon, and I am thankful that the supreme court understands the constitution better than you do. I don’t own a gun, and I’m not a member of the NRA, but people like you scare me.

      • RAOUL

        Thanks for the complement. Let me provide a little personal history. My brother served in there major combat operations in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, I served four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, all of my uncles on my father’s and mother’s side severed in WW II and in the Korean war. None have psychological problems and none of us, in total, own hand guns, rifles or assault rifles, or make bombs so in todays NRA a world we would be considered crazy. Thanks, for the comment and keep up the nut/fear work. Road.Rep, your doing a hell of a job.

  • CB

    As a former school teacher and always an artist, here is my creative response ti arming teachers in classrooms with guns: OVERKILL. This found-object assemblage i constructed says it all for me. (Hopefully the picture uploaded)

    • fun bobby

      it did not. I knew at least one teacher who carried on the regular. do you know any?

  • Michael Englund

    Although I personally think there should be no need for teachers to arm themselves, I feel most arguments against guns, especially “assault rifles,” are ignorant. As a Marine, I have experience with a few variations of what the public refers to as assault rifles. They still have to be aimed and are far less accurate while firing multiple rounds quickly. All the publicly available versions are semi-auto, meaning one pull of the trigger fires one round. This is the same as most pistols. At close range, such as inside a building, a pistol is just as lethal as an assault rifle. As far as the higher capacity magazine in an assault rifle, most carry 30 compared to a common pistol that carries around 10. Reloading a magazine takes maybe 10 seconds without training using either. Are you really going to think, “he only has ten rounds, I’ll stay close so I can take him down during that ten seconds,” doubtful. Disarming everyone won’t stop the few unstable people from getting a gun. And just so you know, I’ve never owned a personal fire arm. I’ve only had them issued to me. I see no need, but support those that enjoy going shooting as I enjoy my fast car that could be deadly if used improperly.

    • PoliticsWatcher

      And yet some shooters have been taken down while reloading. Some is a lot better than none.

      • fun bobby

        actually the guy in AZ was taken down because his 100 round magazine(in a pistol by the way) jammed, as the often do. much safer if everyone had oversized magazines if you are basing your entire defensive strategy on poor gun operators making mistakes. the most deadly school shooter used two, ten round capacity pistols

    • fun bobby

      I bet if it took you ten seconds to change a magazine they would have given you a blanket party

  • PoliticsWatcher

    Perhaps such experimentation is good, but I’m glad it’s not with my kids.

    • fun bobby

      the “gun free zone” experiment has been a resounding failure

  • fun bobby

    teachers are citizens, like everyone else they have a right to defend themselves and a right to bear arms. seems simple enough

    • Laurie Astroth

      I wonder what the school district’s insurance carrier thinks of this. Kansas also wanted to arm teachers and their liability provider up their premiums so high that the school districts couldn’t afford the policies. If Arkansas found a carrier I wonder how much money they are using for this instead of teaching?
      So answer your question you can’t carry a gun everywhere you want. In states have determined areas where one can’t carry. And in some places business and property owners have the right to deny guns on their property for liability reasons.

      • fun bobby

        I don’t know what the cost is. schools waste plenty of money on things non essential to teaching. some people might argue that a safe place is a prerequisite for teaching. no one would question funding for a school resource officer or fire alarms.
        Its true that there are laws like that. in some places those apply to schools in some they do not. the question here is what the laws should be in this state. I think that they should allow teachers to exercise their rights like other citizens in other places. those gun free zones seem to be magnets for mass shootings, so I oppose them.

      • road.rep

        Why would the insurance company be involved? Car dealers and grocery stores don’t discuss guns when purchasing insurance. Neither do hospitals, or school districts, or most anyone else. We have a right to bear arms, and the insurance industry is aware of that right. I’m not aware of any insurance actuarial tables that consider this issue. Are you sure about your facts?

  • Phil

    The problem itself stems from being immersed in a gun-obsessed culture. We aren’t going to solve the problem of gun violence by arming people in a misguided attempt to end gun violence with gun violence. Twenty two armed teachers in the school means that all these armed teachers are going to have to conduct themselves perfectly in the potential use of these deadly weapons. They cannot go off the deep end psychologically; they cannot lose their weapons or let them fall into other hands; they have to be perfect shots; there can be no ricochet from any shot intended to hit a “bad” guy; the determination of who is a “bad” guy and what constitutes a deadly situation calling for the use of deadly force from one of these fallible individuals needs to be spot on, etc., etc. This is crazy thinking and is generally only entertained by americans. Gun control, NOT gun proliferation.

  • Brandon

    I would like to start by saying I am an avid gun owner.I started all my children at a young age in the safe,proper care and handling of a firearm. I would like to start by making everyone aware of the definition of an assault rifle. An assault rifle is a selective fire from semi to full automatic by the user. These weapons are already banned in the U.S. with the National Firearms Act of 1936. I have taught my kids what to do in the event of an active shooter situation in their school.I am aware that for saying that I will receive some serious remarks and its ok I have thick skin.I believe I have to as a parent do all that I can to protect my kids in this possible situation.I have been torn since the tragedy of Sandy Hook about firearms being carried in our schools by teachers. In my home state of Ohio I can carry my self defence firearm almost any where not in a school or federal building of course, but was horrified to learn that an off duty peace officer can’t carry in our schools here. I believe that we have to face the world we live in, no amount of proposed laws can make us safe. Law Enforcemnet officers are already over burdened and in most cases can’t even enforce speeding laws that are posted along our highways. I believe Firearms in the hands of well trained teachers and I stress well trained, is the only cost effective way to keep our children safe in schools. Today on your radio clip I heard mention of metal detectors, whose gonna man them and keep them operational in schools that alreay cant afford to supply books for our children.
    If a weapon is detected who is gonna aprehend the perp an unarmed teacher I can already tell you how that’ll go. In Colorado the shooting there in the theatre, another gun free zone where an idiot bent on death and mayhem could kill and murder with no chance of recourse. He now sits in prison on our dime to feed and house. I hate that I live in a society that I fear for my children’s saftey when they are not with me,but in my heart and soul and with all the common sense I have the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,be it a teacher,a police officer,an off duty police officer or could be any citizen standing beside you in the morning while your getting your coffee at the local Starbuck’s. We trust our teacher’s with so much now, most of them are parents to our children when we can’t be there. I can’t expect them to give their lives in defense of our children like the young lady at Sandy Hook who give her life so her students could live. I will not ask anyone to do that and strip their rights to defend themselves that my fore fothers fought for,that our Fathers may have died for and our brothers struggle today to preserve rights that as soon as she leaves the place of her chosen career she can slip a gun in her purse or pocket and defend her or hisself and their families just as I do every morning

  • KM

    For me, the most striking comment made in this entire conversation was something Superintendent Hopkins said – that more families pulled their children out of the district when computers were introduced into the classrooms than when guns were.

  • Lee Culpepper
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