Video: Clarksville School District Arms 20 Teachers, Staff

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013 7:18 am  

State officials are not blocking Clarksville's plan, but Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell is opposed to the idea of arming teachers and staff. He prefers to hire law enforcement officers as school resource officers.

There are other dissenters, too. Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, called the idea of arming teachers "awful." The risk of a student accidentally getting shot or obtaining a gun outweighs any benefits, she said.

"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," Morey said.

Participants in the program are given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. Hopkins said the district is paying about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.

The Nighthawk training includes drills like the one Dougan participated in, with various role-playing scenarios involving shooters on campus. Dougan and other teachers in the program practiced using "airsoft" pellet guns, with students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.

"There's pressure on you, because you're shooting real bullets if this actually happened," said Dougan, who has three children attending Clarksville schools. "I was nervous to start, but once it started and I was going through what they had taught us, it just took over."

The training is narrowly tailored for teachers to respond to shooters on campus.

"That teacher is going to respond to one thing and one thing alone, and that's someone is in the building either actively or attempting to kill people," Jon Hodoway, director of training for Nighthawk. "That's it. They're not going to enforce the law. They're not going to make traffic stops. If somebody is outside acting the fool, they're going to call the police."

Using students as actors helps trainers re-create the environment that teachers and staff would face in a typical school shooting, Hodoway explained. The students who participated in the exercise were children of the teachers and staff who were being trained.

Sydney Whitkanack, who will enter seventh grade this fall, said she's grown up around firearms and doesn't mind if teachers or staff are armed at school.

"If they're concealed, then it's no big deal," said Whitkanack, who was an actor in the training scenario. "It's not like someone's going to know 'Oh, they have a firearm.'"

The district will post signs at each school about the armed guards, but the identities of faculty and staff carrying weapons will be kept secret, Hopkins said.

 

 

Please read our comments policy before commenting.