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, a Democrat, 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. I tell you, this has really thrown a monkey wrench into it.”
The idea of arming schoolhouses against gunmen was hotly debated across the country after the school shooting in Connecticut last December that left 20 children and six teachers dead. The National Rifle Association declared it the best response to serious threats. But even in the most conservative states, most proposals faltered in the face of resistance from educators or warnings from insurance companies that schools would face higher premiums.