Clarksville Schools Rethinks Arming Staff

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The Clarksville School District is changing plans to arm staff members for the upcoming school year after Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel shot down the idea.

Clarksville Schools' superintendent David Hopkins says he has to now rethink how to keep students safe.

Until Thursday, 20 staff members were being trained on a professional level in gun safety. The plan was for those staff members with a concealed carry permit to be armed during the school day in case students’ lives are on the line.

"We've been working with our local law enforcement agencies putting this together," Hopkins said. "In fact, our plan was to pair up with them and work in tandem in training and other exercises as we move into the future with this program. So we were wanting to put together a very detailed and comprehensive plan to take care of our kids."

Hopkins believes arming staff members would prevent school gun violence and increase safety within the school district.

McDaniel issued an opinion Thursday (Aug. 1) stating the state law allowing private businesses to provide armed security does not extend to Arkansas schools.

McDaniel went on to express that it's illegal to have a firearm on school grounds, school buses or at bus stops.

"It kind of just took the wind out of our sail so to speak," Hopkins said, referring to McDaniel's opinion. "We thought that we'd been doing everything the way that we needed to do."

Hopkins said it is a significant setback for the campus gun program especially with the first day of school being two weeks from Monday.

"It's very unfortunate that it's right before the school year starts," Hopkins said. "We had all of this in place. Again, we were acting in good faith and we were ready to begin the program the first day of school. So certainly that really puts a monkey wrench into our security plans."

Hopkins said the cost of the training for staff and faculty has cost $68,000.

"In reality, the cost of an additional resource officer is $50,000," Hopkins explained. "So really, with the funds that we've expended, we could've only hired one additional officer. Whereas now, we were getting the benefit of more than 20 that we would be able to put in place. That was until the Attorney General's decision."

The Clarksville school district plans to meet with their lawyers about whether they can move forward with the gun program.

Until then Hopkins says the district plans to abide by the attorney general’s opinion and will not have armed teachers on campus.