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Guns in schools: Arkansas district will arm 20 teachers and staff

Clarksville school district is the latest rural school in a conservative state to give teachers handguns. But soaring insurance costs have often made such programs prohibitively expensive.

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"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," she said.

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Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.

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The Clarksville school district is the latest example of localities trying to form responses to the Sandy Hook shooting last December that killed 20 children and six teachers. 

Like Clarksville, some districts have decided to beef up armed security, in line with the National Rifle Association’s recommendation for every school to have an armed security guard, police officer, or staff.

In May, a rural Colorado school district voted to allow two top administrators to carry guns. They were able to circumvent Colorado’s gun laws by changing the job title of the superintendent to security officer. In Arizona's Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio organized a posse of armed volunteers to patrol local schools, although he drew criticism for hiring a former child-sex offender.

In 2013, seven states passed legislation permitting teachers or administrators to carry guns in schools and more than 30 state legislatures introduced bills that would permit staff members to carry guns in public or private schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But most proposals to arm teachers or staff have failed, even in conservative states more likely to support an expanded role for guns, according to The New York Times.

A key reason for fewer districts arming teachers is the potential cost, according to the Times report. Some insurance companies are declining coverage to schools that allow employees to carry handguns, or are raising their premiums.

In Kansas, for instance, the liability insurance provider for about 90 percent of Kansas school districts said it would not cover schools that permit employees to carry concealed handguns. A dozen Kansas school districts that were considering arming their staff changed their minds after the decision, the state employee who oversees insurance programs at the Kansas Association of School boards told the Times.

“Some [insurance providers] are saying this is so high risk we’re not going to touch it,” Kenneth Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, which discourages districts from implementing concealed carry policies told the Times. “Others may say this is so high risk that you’re going to pay through the nose.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. 

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