An Arkansas school district announced it will arm over 20 teachers and other school staff, and train them on gun use. The assistant principal of a district high school will be one of the armed staff. He’s been participating in training drills with students, preparing for various scenarios such as dealing with a situation in which another student comes to school armed. He, along with other staff who have voluntarily signed up for the program, will attend 53 hours of training before being equipped with a concealed 9mm handgun. The training drills utilize current students and teachers to enact different scenarios and uses soft dummy bullets to teach the staff how to handle the firearms.
Superintendent David Hopkins explained that the decision was made after the nation was shocked by the Sandy Hook shooting, in which an armed gunman entered a school and killed 20 children and six adults. Hopkins began receiving phone calls from parents who were worried a similar incident could happen in their child’s school. He decided that he needed to take steps to change the school district’s current approach to preparing for the possibility of an attack.
“The plan we’ve been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'” he said. As he and other concerned teachers and parents saw more and more school shootings occur, he decided “That’s not a plan.” He said a factor in the decision was the practicality of using existing school staff rather than hiring an outside source. “We’re not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens,” he said. “We’ve got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas. Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.”
While the small community of just over 9,000 people enjoys a generally peaceful environment, the parents’ concerns are what drove Hopkins’ decision. However, not everyone in the community agrees with the plan. Some, like former Arkansas Education Association calls the decision “awful” and says that the potential risks outweigh any possible benefit. She worries that a gun could fall into the wrong hands or that someone could be the victim of an accidental shooting. One parent has decided to remove her child from the school because of the program, which she says is inappropriate because the police, not teachers, should be the ones making those kinds of decisions.
Other parents and students support the plan entirely. School student Sydney Whitkanack feels comfortable around guns and thinks the program will be helpful. She participated in the training program, honing her acting skills during the scenario drills. She says the fact that the guns will be concealed makes the program “no big deal” because no one will know who has a firearm and who doesn’t. The identities of the participating staff will be kept confidential.
The director of the training for the program says the guns will only be used in the event of an emergency. “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,” he said. “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.”
By: Rebecca Savastio