Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Rural Arkansas educators tell DOE commission that rural areas, too far from law enforcement, need armed teachers

"Proposals to arm teachers and school staff have stirred controversy since the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla., but such plans are sometimes the best options for rural schools far from first responders, state and school officials told the Federal School Safety Commission at a site visit in Arkansas on Wednesday," Elvie Blad reports for Education Week.

Lake Hamilton Schools Supt. Steve Anderson, who carries a gun at school, told the commission that sheriffs said they would be 20 to 30 minutes away during an active-shooter situation, and that the district needed someone closer to protect the students. Another superintendent told the panel of a time when, after hearing three gunshots on an elementary playground, she ran to respond as the gunman ran away. She said she felt relieved and empowered to know that she had a gun and could protect her students, Blad reports.

"The federal task force, chaired by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has held public comment hearings, convened panels of experts, and visited schools of various sizes to hear about how they prevent and respond to school violence since it was formed in the spring. DeVos was not present at Wednesday's meeting in Pearcy, Arkansas, which was led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions," Blad reports. "The commission heard testimony from local supporters of armed school staff, but it did not hear from any of the groups who have opposed such proposals."

Jay Barth, chair of the Arkansas Board of Education, told the commission that armed school staff shouldn't include teachers, since he said they need to concentrate on educating children, Blad reports. But hiring trained officers might not always be possible because the state already struggles to hire and retain enough officers, according to Jami Cook, director of the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

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