Armed school personnel defended by school districts


LITTLE ROCK — Superintendents of two school districts defended their security plans, which included arming teachers and staff, during a legislative committee meeting Wednesday.

Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins and Lake Hamilton Superintendent Steve Anderson also told lawmakers they were disappointed that their security plans were halted by an unfavorable attorney general’s opinion and a state panel’s suspension of the licenses of school employees registered with the state as security personnel.

They said they were looking forward to their Sept. 11 appeal of the ruling of the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies.

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which met jointly Wednesday with the House Judiciary Committee, said later that if the state board declines the superintendents’ appeals he will call another meeting of the committees to continue discussion of the issue.

He said he would like for lawmakers to find a way to address the issue this year, but if not he expects it will be on the Legislature’s fiscal session agenda in February.

“We could put in the statutes that schools are able to have their owned private security agents,” Hutchinson said. “Or, we could … have a new model of training that allows reserve officers to focus on incidents that may arise in a school, so if you have an active shooter, de-escalation of a fight, or a bully, you have a whole new program for school officers.”

Hutchinson also he would look into the possibility of Legislative Council sometime this fall approving new rules or regulations to allow school personnel to train as reserve deputies.

During the meeting, several lawmakers said that in an ideal world each district would have several resource officers who work in schools, but that was difficult because of the cost.

Hopkins told lawmakers his district has trained 22 teachers and school personnel, spending about $70,000.

Anderson said the Lake Hamilton School District has had two full-time armed security officers and a contingent of trained school staff in place for 20 years. None of those trained in the use of firearms are teachers, he said, adding he he thinks teachers should be responsible for one thing: teaching.

Anderson declined to say exactly how many on staff were trained, but noted he and an assistant director were part of the armed security detail.

“For 20 years we have held the license and for 20 years we have had no problems,” Anderson said.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said that most school districts across the state and nation have avoided school shootings without arming teachers or other personnel. She asked Anderson if he thought his district’s security measures were the reason for the lack of gun violence on campus.

“We believe having an armed presence serves as some type of deterrent,” he responded.