- State lawmaker offers safer-school proposal: Let teachers
- Students with guns had terrible effects at Littleton,
Colo., Paducah, Ky., and near Jonesboro, where two students last year killed
four classmates and a teacher and wounded 10 others.
- What can be done to prevent such horrors in the future?
- Some strategists ask: What if teachers had guns? What
if they were trained to use the weapons? Could they make a difference?
- Rep. Marvin Parks, R-Greenbrier, has no answers, but
he wants Arkansas to ponder the questions before the Legislature meets
- Parks has asked the House and Senate Interim Committees
on Education to explore the feasibility of allowing schoolteachers to attend
the state Law Enforcement Training Academy to "better prepare themselves
to deal with violence on school premises."
- His proposal is one of two school-safety studies lawmakers
may consider in formulating legislation for the 2001 legislative session.
- The other study proposal, sponsored by Reps. Bobby Glover,
D-Carlisle, and Shane Broadway, D-Benton, requests a more comprehensive
review of what the state can do to make schools safer.
- Both proposals are pending before the committees.
- In an interview, Parks acknowledged that the unstated
aim of his proposal was to consider whether to allow teachers to carry
guns if they are qualified and if they have the desire. "I want them
to be prepared to respond to that [school violence] and to meet it if they
have to," Parks said.
- He is not wedded to the idea, he said. He wants it considered
as an alternative to having a certified law enforcement officer in every
- "It is not the long-term solution," Parks said.
"But we've got to put security on campus. How would you do it for
every school district in the state?"
- Some of the bigger school districts in the state have
a certified law enforcement officers, often known as school resource officers,
stationed on some campuses. But having a resource officer on every campus
in all 310 school districts might prove too costly, Parks said.
- Having a teacher or school administrator who also was
a certified law enforcement officer would save money, he said.
- Parks, a freshman, said carrying a gun into the classroom
never occurred to him during his 14 years as a teacher of eighth-grade
and ninth-grade mathematics in the Conway public schools.
- He left the profession three years ago, before the Littleton,
Jonesboro, and Paducah shootings.
- The idea of arming teachers occurred to him when he learned
of the science teacher who was shot while trying to escort students to
safety during the Littleton shooting, Parks said. "What if someone
had been there, prepared and qualified to respond to that situation,"
- He bounced the idea of some local constituents, including
two school superintendents and a police officer. "All agreed that
it is something worth talking about," Parks said.
- He already has heard the argument that teachers are burdened
enough without undergoing law enforcement training, which would be voluntary
under his proposal. But he suggested that teachers without the qualifications
are under a heavy burden when violence erupts on campus. "You are
putting more on me in that situation when you don't give me the resources
to deal with it," Parks said.
- Under his plan, teachers could undergo training similar
to what police officers undergo to become certified through the state Law
Enforcement Training Academy at East Camden.
- A prospective police officer undergoes 12 weeks of training,
or 480 hours of instruction, said Steve Farris, deputy director of the
training division for the Law Enforcement Standards and Training Commission,
which oversees the academy.
- About 15 percent of the training, or 73 hours, is firearms
instruction, Farris said. The prospective officers also must meet minimum
marksmanship standards to be certified, he said. Other areas of emphasis
include use of force, ethics, defensive tactics, Arkansas criminal law
and response to violence, Farris said.
- Parks said he would not be comfortable with the idea
of a teacher carrying a gun on campus if he only had to meet the standards
that citizens must meet to qualify to carry a concealed weapon.
- The same idea that Parks wants studied has provoked controversy
elsewhere. He said he didn't know that.
- This month, an Ohio school superintendent resigned in
the wake of an outcry that erupted when he suggested arming teachers. John
Varis, chief of Readings Schools, had been under fire since Oct. 15 when
he made comments about the merits of arming teachers to protect students.
That drew sharp criticism from some, but the superintendent said he was
simply brainstorming school safety ideas.
- Varis is not the first official to create controversy
in the discussion about battling school violence. Minnesota Gov. Jesse
Ventura came under criticism when he suggested that if teachers had been
carrying concealed weapons, they might have prevented the April shootings
in Littleton, which left 15 dead and nearly two dozen hurt.
- "Let's remember that very often, if you were to
have someone with a legitimate conceal-and- carry weapon, you can stop
crimes like this from happening," Ventura said at the time.
- The ensuing uproar prompted Ventura to say he regretted
the remarks and that schools are no place for weapons.
- Also this year, Georgia Schools Superintendent Linda
Schrenko proposed a state law authorizing administrators with the proper
training to carry Mace, pepper spray or stun guns.
- University of Chicago Law School fellow John R. Lott
Jr. also has advocated arming teachers, saying it would deter violence.
- But mainline education groups, such as the National Education
Association and National Center for the Study of School Violence in Raleigh,
N.C., have not included the option in their strategies to reduce school
- Education Secretary Richard Riley dismissed the idea
this summer. "If you are in a situation where a teacher has to carry
a gun, then you are in a prison-type situation," he said in an interview
with the Denver Post while attending an education conference in Denver.
- Riley noted that "school is still the safest place
in the community." Less than 1 percent of all homicides among school-age
children -- ages 5 to 19 -- occur in or around public schools, he said.
- This article was published on Friday, November 26, 1999
- Copyright © 1999, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
All rights reserved.