Meridian Star

New Today

July 30, 2013

Ark. district arming more than 20 teachers, staff

Clarksville, Ark. —

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. (AP) — As Cheyne Dougan rounded the corner at Clarksville High School, he saw three students on the floor moaning and crying. In a split-second, two more ran out of a nearby classroom.

"He's got a gun," one of them shouted as Dougan approached with his pistol drawn. Inside, he found one student holding another at gunpoint. Dougan aimed and fired three rounds at the gunman.

Preparing for such scenarios has become common for police after a school shooting in Connecticut last December left 20 children and six teachers dead. But Dougan is no policeman. He's the assistant principal of this school in Arkansas, and when classes resume in August, he will walk the halls with a 9 mm handgun.

Dougan is among more than 20 teachers, administrators and other school employees in this town who will carry concealed weapons throughout the school day, making use of a little-known Arkansas law that allows licensed, armed security guards on campus. After undergoing 53 hours of training, Dougan and other teachers at the school will be considered guards.

"The plan we've been given in the past is 'Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'" Superintendent David Hopkins said. But as deadly incidents continued to happen in schools, he explained, the district decided, "That's not a plan."

After the Connecticut attack, the idea of arming schoolhouses against gunmen was hotly debated across the country. 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.

In strongly conservative Arkansas, where gun ownership is common and gun laws are permissive, no school district had ever used the law to arm teachers on the job, according to the state Department of Education. The closest was the Lake Hamilton School District in Garland County, which for years has kept several guns locked up in case of emergency. Only a handful of trained administrators — not teachers — have access to the weapons.

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