by Max Brantley
The district got its first license in March 2013. Since then, it has been putting staff members through $50,000 worth of training not only to qualify for licenses that allow them to carry weapons as private security guards but additional training in tactics and related matters. Superintendent David Hopkins had planned to have his "security team" in place at the five schools in the 2,400-student district this year.
But publicity about the training led to a request for an official opinion from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel who said last week that state law doesn't allow a school district to be considered a private business under the law to arm staff, particularly when the law is read in conjunction with a law banning guns on school campuses. McDaniel said schools could allow regular law enforcement officers on campus or hire private businesses to supply licensed security, but not use its own staff for that purpose. He also said the General Assembly could modify the law to allow districts to arm staff. A number of districts have won permission in the past for the privilege, but it has been lightly used, most prominently by Lake Hamilton School District, where a handful of administrators are allowed access to locked-up guns.
Hopkins proposed a far broader use of weapons, by both administrative staff and teachers. He has refused to say precisely how many staff members he wanted to arm, citring security concerns. He also resisted media requests for information, but McDaniel said Monday that the Freedom of Information Act did not allow Clarksville to keep secret the names of those with guard licenses. Each Clarksville participant also received a $1,000 stipend to buy a semi-automatic pistol, holster and ammunition, another piece of information that couldn't be shielded from the public.
Information released today by the State Police only shows 14 commissioned security officers from Clarksville. But Sadler said an unknown number of other applications that had not yet been reviewed were boxed up and returned to Clarksville after the attorney general's opinion last week.
Hopkins has said he thinks McDaniel's opinion is wrong. He hopes the state board that issues the permits will stand by its earlier licensing decision when it meets Aug. 14. Otherwise, he said, he'll mount a legal challenge to denial of the permits. He's grown increasingly outspoken about McDaniel's opinon and about the need for more guns in schools to insure the safety of children. Media have interviewed some parents who don't support the decision, however.
A number of politicians haverushed to support Clarksville, notably including Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson, who's been used nationally by the NRA as an advocate for more guns in schools. Hutchinson has, however, said teachers shouldn't carry guns. He says teaching should be their only occupation.
At Clarksville, the 14 employees who received permits include Hopkins, two assistant superintendents, a bus driver, five principals or assistant principals, a business manager, and, based on a district roster, four people who appear to be teachers, in grades ranging from kindergarten to high school. The 14 include three women.
The packet of information also included a proposed identification badge the school district had prepared for its security team to wear. It's unclear if the intent was for them to be worn openly or concealed, given Hopkins' recent resistance to identification of armed staff. The district was instructed not to use the ID because only board-issued ID are allowed.