Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has just thrown a wrinkle in plans by school districts to use the private security guard licensing law as a means of arming teachers and staff as security.
We’ve written this week about the Clarksville School District, the most aggressive user of the law, which has spent $50,000 on training and provided $1,100 stipends to more than 20 staff members so they may carry concealed weapons in the 2,400-student district as a security measure against “active shooters.”
A few other school people around the state have also availed themselves of the training and plan to have weapons on campus. Lake Hamilton, for example, has trained several administrators who have access to guns kept under lock. But Clarksville plans to disperse its armed members in classrooms, with weapons carried in concealed holsters. This goes even farther than the NRA call for more guns in schools, advanced by Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson, who’s said teachers should teach and not be part of the armed contingent.
The opinion says these school districts have been designated as private companies”: Ashdown Public School District Clarksville School District, Concord School District, Cutter Morning Star School District, Fort Smith Public School District , Lake Hamilton School District, Lee County School District #1, Little Rock School District, Nettleton Public Schools (Jonesboro), Poyen Public Schools, Pulaski County Special School District, Westside Consolidated School District #5 (Jonesboro)
Attorney general opinions are not binding, but the one he issued today says the law doesn’t allow what Clarksville plans, though the opinion wasn’t specifically directed at that district. I have a question out to Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins for a response to the opinion, requested by Rep. Hank Wilkins of Pine Bluff.
The summary is on the jump (and here’s full opinion), but the key finding is that McDaniel believes law and rules of the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies authorized private businesses to hire private armed security. “It does not authorize the licensing of a political subdivison such as a school district, whch is neither in itself “private” nor authorized to establish a separate ‘private’ identity. Simply put, the code opinion does not authorize either licensing a school district as a guard company or classifying it as a private business authorized to employ its own teachers as armed guards.”
McDaniel said various other statutes restrict school employees from carrying guns on school grounds. It would be up to a prosecutor to decide “how to proceed against an individual who, in reliance on an invalidly issued commission, has violated the laws prohibiting the carrying of firearms on school grounds.”
McDaniel observed that school districts could still contract with private security companies or have law enforcement “resource” officers. The General Assembly could also choose to modify the law, he noted.