No action was taken, but the Booneville School Board last week heard a presentation from Scott Lewis of School Training Services about the procedure for arming teachers or other school personnel.
“We’re not training them to be a cop. We’re not teaching them how to work a wreck, or how to write a ticket,” said Lewis. “What we’re taking is the job of a law enforcement officer and we’re teaching that very narrow field of respond to the sound of gunfire and eliminate the threat.
“In that small slice of the pie we go very deep.”
Lewis said the training a teacher would undergo “pushes them right to the edge.”
The trainees must shoot the same qualifications as a law enforcement officer.
“The same course of fire that I have to pass to be a cop on the streets of Springdale is the same qualifications the teacher is going to have to pass,” said Lewis.
The training, Lewis said, consists of 60 hours which can be accomplished in three 10-hour days on successive weeks, or six consecutive 10-hour days.
The program is governed by the state police, Lewis said, which means handcuffing techniques are taught because the state police mandates it. But, he said, the training also encompasses multiple items above the curriculum requirements, including the personnel holding an enhanced concealed carry license.
Where teachers would carry guns, Lewis said, would depend upon gender of the teacher, job, and even grade level taught.
Lewis said another question he routinely gets is what do the armed teachers do when law enforcement arrives. Unfortunately, he answered, there is no magic word or hat because if there was the perpetrator would likely know them as well.
“From day one we incorporate the local law enforcement in that training. As much or as little as they want to attend that training, they are welcome,” said Lewis. “Then the burden falls on the school to get those cops into the school to build a relationship.
“They have to know that when they respond there are armed teachers in that building.”
Lewis said some school districts use signage to warn those arriving on campus or in building that there are armed teachers there. Others do not. The company will make recommendations but, Lewis said, it is up to the district, he said.
Lewis’ company will give an opinion on number of carrying staff on each campus. After having toured the district here, Lewis said he would likely suggest half at the junior/senior high and half at the elementary school.
The cost of the training is 12 teachers is a little more than $20,000 and fluctuates whether ammunition is needed, hotel and meal costs.
Training is accomplished either in northwest Arkansas or at the school, which allows for scenario-based training in the actual building.
That training is individualized, Lewis said, with the respective carrying teachers fighting from their classrooms and fighting down the halls.
“That’s one of the biggest positive feedbacks we get is they like us coming to the schools and walking through the schools with those teachers who are gun-toters now,” said Lewis.
Board president Eric Jones asked whether he knew of any instances where an armed teacher had their weapon turned on them.
“No,” Lewis answered. “What I do know is teachers are already moving to the sound of gunfire, teachers are already putting themselves between the shooter and kids. All we’re doing is providing a tool so that they have a means to beat that bad guy as opposed to just soak up rounds,” said Lewis.
Board member Janie Woolley asked if Lewis would send his own child to a district where teachers were present. He said yes because statistically there is a child murdered or seriously injured every 15 seconds once a incidnet starts and that law enforcement response time is typically four to six minutes.
Other questions Lewis fielded included whether there is a list of characteristics a teacher might need, and whether insurance liabilities are increased.
Lewis said no on the characteristics because “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” and the liability issue has not been tested.
Teachers must also pass a psychiatric evaluation before being admitted to the program.
Lewis’ company was hired earlier this year by the Magazine School District in a meeting superintendent Trent Goff attended.
Other area schools with armed teachers include Charleston, where signage notifies those visiting the campus.