Conway Superintendent Greg Murry says the arming of administrators or teachers is not something the school district is considering.
In the aftermath of recent mass shootings, including the Dec. 14 slaying of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, schools across the country have considered further security measures to help ensure the safety of students and school staff. Those considerations have included arming school administrators and teachers.
In recent weeks, Clarksville School District has drawn national attention to its proposed plan of arming more than 20 teachers, administrators and others school employees who underwent more than 50 hours of training over the summer.
It’s a consideration that Murry, superintendent of Conway Public Schools since July 2007, says he isn’t ready to discuss.
“I understand there are a lot of emotions going both ways, but I don’t believe its appropriate unless (the administrators) are willing to use it,” Murry said. “That’s what you’re doing when you arm administrators or teachers, you are asking them to be able to use it. At this point it’s not necessary.”
Murry said the level of security and police involvement currently exercised at Conway schools helped him reach the decision to pass on the idea of arming school staff.
Conway schools currently have five school resource officers that divide time among the district’s 16 campuses.
“Our SROs serve us well,” Murry said. “They are more than capable of providing security, and they will continue to protect our kids.”
Although Officer Sean Canady said Conway’s five SROs are assigned to specific schools, the officers can be “anywhere in the district at anytime.”
There is discussion between the Conway Police Department and the Conway School District to add up to three additional school resource officers. No timetable on when the SROs could be added was provided by school or police officials.
SWAT Team Commander, Lt. Chris Harris, said all Conway officers recently participated in an active shooter building search exercise, which was planned specifically around SROs.
“Instead of several officers going in, we told (the SROs), you’re going to be the first responders for that school,” he said. “We trained them basically on the same stuff, but with the exception of, ‘You’re probably going to have to enter a room by yourself since you’re already inside the situation.’”
Harris said it is now mandatory for all Conway officers to have active shooter training.
Canady and Harris both said all officers are taught to respond “direct to threat.”
“The main thing we try to explain to SROs, and officers in general, you hear gunfire, you hear killing, you go to that sound, and you stop it,” Canady said. “By whatever means necessary.”
Canady said all SROs are required to be certified through the National Association of School Resource Officers, but said there is no additional mandatory requirements. However, Conway’s SROs under advanced and specialized training through the Criminal Justice Institute, Canady said.
In another effort to improve school safety, Arkansas legislators passed a bill this year, now Act 484, which requires public schools to participate in active shooter drills and provide education and training to school employees.
The new law requires schools to participate in the drills beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
Murry said an active shooter drill, involving some administrators, took place this summer.
In addition to a strong district-wide presence by SROs, Murry said all of the district’s campuses, including 10 elementary schools, four middle schools, one junior high and one high school, are under constant video surveillance.
“We don’t have cameras in every classroom, but they are located throughout portions of the hallways and exits, along with the exterior of all our buildings,” Murry said.
Last year the district also implemented a uniform system, district-wide, which requires parents and volunteers to provide identification and be subject to a background check before entering the school.
The new sign-in requirement is only used in cases of parents and volunteers coming on campus, and going somewhere in the building, Murry said.
Although a background check is not run for those checking out children from school, Murry said children are only released to individuals that are listed by parents as approved people who can check out the child.
“The person the child is released to is someone we know and has approval,” he said.
While several security measures have been taken at Conway schools, Murry would not rule out the possibility of arming administrators becoming an issue the district may have to address in the future, although he does not see the issue being discussed anytime soon.
“I don’t see it in the near future, for sure,” he said.
Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 19 for the Conway School District.
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