Letter to the Editor

Why Clarksville had it right

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It didn't take long for the Clarksville, Arkansas news to go viral. The decision to arm 20 staff members as part of the school safety plan was quickly nixed by the state attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, saying the plan did not follow curent legal guidelines.

To add insult to injury, McDaniel is now insisting that the school district provide the names of the 20 staff members who would have served as volunteer security guards.

Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins endorsed the new program that established an Emergency Response team of in-house staff after the school shooting in Connecticut last December. The plan was approved by the Clarksville Board of Education.

Since then, the volunteer members have been involved in intense training. They study and practice techniques and tactics used by trained law enforcement officers, with an emphasis on safety and accuracy.

But the attorney general's ruling has all that on hold.

"The plan we've been given in the past is 'Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'" Hopkins said. But as shootings continued to terrorize schools across the country, the Clarksville district decided "that's not a plan."

Hopkins is right.

Every school shooting has been committed by people with knowledge of the school environment, schedule, and passive plan of resistance. Lock the doors and hide? Seriously? Shooters know that their intended victims are in classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, and gymnasiums. Doors with glass offer little protection for those inside.

It is one thing to see the tragedy reported on the evening news. But have you ever really taken the time to imagine the sequence of nightmarish events that the victims endure? The intercom warning, or no warning at all. The sudden crackle of gunfire echoing in the halls and classrooms. The rush to hunker down in the "safe spot" in the classroom. The feeling of helplessness when the shooter enters your classroom.

Administrators, board members, politicians: would you want your child hunkered down with only a hope and a prayer protecting them in that moment? Or would you want that school protected by armed security guards?

This is a problem that is not going away. When societal misfits decide to lash out, they know that the best way to get instant fame and media attention short of assassinating the President is to kill as many innocents as possible.

We need a better plan than "hope for the best", just as David Hopkins said.

If our schools are not allowed to use staff as armed guards, then they must hire armed security guards as part of the school safety plan. The presence of an armed defense is the best deterrent against these senseless attacks.

The immediate response of many schools will be, "We can't afford it."

Yes you can.

If you can't find the extra money necessary for such a program, then you need to cut unnecessary programs to provide the funds. Even it means eliminating funding for the entire extracurricular sports program, then that should be done. Let the booster club and those who benefit the most from those programs provide the funding for them if money for school safety officers is truly nonexistent.

The safety of our children must become the top priority in our schools. When that is accomplished, we can focus on the real business of school: education. Everything else is negotiable.

Lee Stubblefield