Yet again, the people of Arkansas stand poised to endure another debacle with regard to arming amateurs in public school classrooms.
According to a report by the Arkansas news Bureau, Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins and Lake Hamilton Superintendent Steve Anderson recently told lawmakers they were disappointed that their security plans were halted by an unfavorable attorney general’s opinion and a state panel’s suspension of the licenses of school employees registered with the state as security personnel.
As has been widely explored, this move is little more than one more trip down the aisle for gun fetishists. The people who think teachers and school administrators should be armed are simply detached from the reality of an “active shooter” situation.
This fact is confirmed by virtue of their second-tier plan to have certain school district employees trained as Part Time II law enforcement officers. Apparently, they have failed to notice that even the police themselves have officers with additional specialized training to address these terrible events (i.e. SRT or SWAT units).
Anderson at least seems amenable to this logic. He told Arkansas News Bureau reporters that the Lake Hamilton School District has had two full-time armed security officers and a contingent of trained school staff in place for 20 years. None of those trained in the use of firearms is a teacher, he said, adding he thinks teachers should be responsible for one thing: teaching.
We do too. The wink-and-nod proposal to have district employees certified as Part Time II officers does both the office of teacher and cop a disservice. Many of those who become Part Time II officers in other contexts spend hundreds of hours each year training and practicing the profession of law enforcement. Does anyone really think the district employees would encumber themselves with this additional responsibility? Of course some would, but for the majority, this proposal is little more than a thinly veiled artifice to end-run the attorney general’s opinion on the matter.
Anderson’s comments also provide the only real remedy to this problem: a sufficient number of actual School Resource Officers. SROs are fully certified law enforcement officers who have gone on to receive additional certification regarding service in schools.
As the national Association of School Resource Officers states, “The presence of school resource officers in schools has become an important part of the duty to protect children on campus. Statistically speaking, the effectiveness of school resource officers is firmly established. In America, school crime is down: incidences of school-associated deaths, violence, nonfatal victimizations, and theft have all diminished since local police began partnering with school officials. Once schools are made safe, the campuses tend to stay safe. Even juvenile arrests decrease, falling nearly 50 percent during the period of expansion of School Resource Officer programs.”
Of course SROs cost money — either for the district, the police department or both. Then again, there’s no way to cheat the devil. If we want real, dependable, professional protection for our school children, it costs money. Then again, we are more likely to get what we’ve paid to have.
As for the money that Clarksville and other districts have already spent in their rush to take up arms, perhaps there’s also a lesson in making a metered response, but here again, such pause thwarts that gun-slinging ethos they seem to admire so much.