Arkansas school system studies deputizing staff members

TEXARKANA -- School districts are re-evaluating safety plans after the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and one is considering deputizing some staff members.

Angela Bryant, superintendent at Genoa Central School District, said she plans to meet with the Miller County sheriff's office on what procedures are required to deputize staff members.

"We have some parents that are concerned about school safety," Bryant said. "They have seen the idea and have brought me some things other schools in the state of Arkansas are doing."

One of those schools is the Clarksville School District, where teachers and staff members have been armed since 2013.

Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins is on the Arkansas School Safety Commission, created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hopkins, along with other educators and law enforcement officials, will evaluate and recommend school-security policies and campus designs. The commission's first report is due July 1.

Bryant said one thing she plans to address is employees' ability to keep guns locked in their cars. She said Arkansas law allows it, but the district does not have a concealed-carry policy.

"We will abide by state law," she said. "The personnel policy committee is proposing a policy about concealed carry to the board. If they approve it, it would take effect July 1. It means it would be locked up in a vehicle and not conceal carried in the hallways."

Bryant said if teachers were armed, she would make sure they had undergone proper training.

"I would not want the liability unless those people were somehow deputized and I know they have been properly trained," she said. "I want my teachers focusing on instruction. I am definitely not against it as long as it done correctly, but I don't want everybody toting a gun."

Genoa and Fouke currently have school resource officers who are certified law enforcement officers.

Miller County sheriff's Chief Deputy Mark Lewis said officers plan to participate in the meeting and listen to any concerns that school officials or parents have about security. He said officers already have a good working relationship with the school districts in Miller County.

"We have one officer at each campus and have an outstanding relationship with both districts," Lewis said.

In Arkansas, a school resource officer assists with security, safety, emergency preparedness, emergency response, or any other responsibility assigned by the school or law enforcement agency.

Bryant said the district is implementing other safety measures, including requiring all employees to have identification badges.

"I'm looking at next year possibly requiring students to have them," she said. "Anything that could increase that safety."

She added that proposed policy changes regarding the deputizing or concealed carry would not be on Monday's School Board agenda. Listening to parents' concerns will be on the agenda.

"At the point of that, the board will have some things to think about," she said. "[Proposed policy changes] would probably be a future meeting."

Bryant said officials are also looking at the designs of buildings and whether they need to be changed to increase security.

"The No. 1 goal is to keep students and staff safe," she said.

State Desk on 03/11/2018

Upcoming Events