Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock said he hopes his presentation with the Mt. Vernon-Enola School Board on Thursday evening will begin the debate in the community about the possibility of arming administrators in the school district.
“We want to start the conversation,” Shock told reporters after addressing the board. “We want to see if the community, as a whole, feels this is the way to go, and if it is, I’m going to help them do it.”
Shock’s plan would put school administrators through the same 110-hour certified law enforcement training that reserve deputies are required to complete.
Shock told the school board members that if the school district decides to move forward with the training, it will be provided free of cost and at the convenience of the district.
“We are willing to bend over backwards and cater to your schedule,” he said. “We want to provide that option. It’s all about making the kids safe.
“It’s a controversial issue, and I’ve taken some heat over it, which I’m willing to do, because I feel it’s the right thing to do.”
Since the administrators would be able to carry weapons on school grounds under the authority of the sheriff’s office, Shock admitted that several issues, such as what status administrators would hold with the sheriff’s office, still need to be addressed.
Shock, a 1992 graduate of the school district, told board members that administrators could be considered part-time or reserve deputies, or even specialized police, upon completion of the training.
Considerations for whether or not administrators would be required to wear a badge while on campus or be required to wear a sheriff’s deputy uniform are other concerns that have been discussed in other school districts.
“We still have to iron things out before I would feel comfortable doing it, and I know before the school board feels comfortable doing it,” Shock said after the meeting.
Shock brought a binder, which appeared several inches thick, that included all the training that administrators would be subject to before being deputized.
“This is not a class that you sit in for half a day, and we issue you a gun,” he said. “It is a lengthy class.”
Shock said that administrators that complete the training would be subject to annual training in subsequent years.
Shock and Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland, who also addressed the board, answered several questions from the board concerning the recent developments in the Clarksville School District, where more than 20 members of the school staff, including teachers, had undergone more than 50 hours of training to be able to carry weapons on school grounds only to have the plan blocked earlier this week by a state regulatory panel.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel also released an opinion earlier this month, which stated his doubts upon the legality of Clarksville’s plan, which centered around the school district being recognized as a private firm to be able to arm administrators, teachers and other staff.
“The Attorney General’s opinion related to security officers and security guards is completely separate from anything that’s being proposed tonight,” Hiland told the board. “We’re talking about trained, certified law enforcement officers.”
Hiland also stated that the sheriff’s plan would not include arming teachers or other school staff, only administrators.
Superintendent Larry Walters told reporters after the meeting that he was interested to hear the feedback of parents and others in the community after Shock’s address.
“I want that feedback,” he said. “You want the people to feel good about the decisions you make and to feel comfortable that they’re sending their children to a safe place.”
While Walters admitted that a decision would be something that would take time, he did not want to take too much time.
“If something happens, and we haven’t done our homework or haven’t put something in place, then the finger is pointed at us, because we didn’t take steps,” he said.
Walters said after hearing public feedback, future steps would include having an “open, candid conversation with the board,” which oversees the district’s almost 500 students.