School Climate & Safety

Arkansas District’s Gun Strategy Continues Collapsing

By Ross Brenneman — August 07, 2013 1 min read
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The Clarksville, Ark., school district can’t catch a break. In response to a media request, state police Tuesday revealed the names of all applicants to the district’s beleaguered employee-arming initiative.

The town planned to train and issue guns to 20 teachers and staff members throughout its schools, in part as a response to concerns following last December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

But Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel put the kibosh on those plans last week, saying that only police and legitimate private guards can have guns in schools. Clarksville district officials submitted to McDaniel’s opinion, and suspended their plans.

McDaniel then issued another opinion this Monday, in response to a request by Hearst Corporation legal counsel Diego Ibargüen, representing Arkansas station KHBS-TV, stating that the Clarksville district could not exempt the list of program applicants from Freedom of Information Act requests. The New York-based Hearst Corporation owns a number of major media organizations, including the Houston Chronicle, Elle, Esquire, and several local TV stations.

McDaniel noted that even as he understands employee worries that they might be subject to attacks or public harassment, the public’s right to know prevails.

“Given the unusual duties and responsibilities the school district intended to assign to the [emergency response team] members, I must conclude that knowing the number of ERTS members and their identities would shed great light on the school district’s performance of its duties,” McDaniel wrote.

Clarksville superintendent David Hopkins told the Associated Press that he planned to talk to the district’s attorney before releasing the names, but the state police ultimately made the brunt of the decision for him by making the names public themselves, in keeping with the attorney general’s opinion.

The information released included 14 applications, with six already having been returned to the district because they hadn’t been processed before McDaniel published his previous opinion last week about the program’s legality.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.