Policy - Arkansas teachers are to stand guard

Staff in US state given guns in aftermath of school shootings

Teachers in Arkansas will be carrying concealed weapons when students return to school next term, in response to the deaths of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

More than 20 teachers, administrators and other employees of the Clarksville school district are being trained to carry handguns in schools by way of a little-known law in the southern state.

The idea of arming teachers has been widely debated in the US after the tragic deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six teachers at Sandy Hook, and has been championed by pro-gun organisation the National Rifle Association.

Most states have abandoned the idea, particularly after insurance companies warned school districts that it would lead to significantly increased insurance premiums or to their cover being pulled altogether.

But the Clarksville public school board has decided to use a law in Arkansas that allows licensed, armed security guards on school campuses, and is training staff to become "guards".

As reported by the Associated Press, the school district's superintendent David Hopkins said that the events in Sandy Hook showed that it is time to implement a new approach to school safety.

"The plan we've been given in the past is, `Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best.' That's not a plan," Mr Hopkins said.

Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, said the risk of a student accidentally getting shot or obtaining a gun outweighs any benefits.

"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," she added.

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