As Cheyne Dougan rounded the corner at Clarksville High School, he spotted three of his students on the floor moaning and crying. In just a split-second, and two more ran out of a nearby classroom.
“He has got a gun,” one of the students shouted as Dougan approached with his pistol in his hand. Inside, he found one student holding another at gunpoint. Dougan aimed his gun and fired three bullets at the gunman.
Preparing for such scenarios has become a common scenario for police after a school shooting in Connecticut last December, that has left 20 children and six teachers dead. But Dougan is not a policeman. He is the assistant principal of a school in Arkansas, and when classes resume this month, he will walk the halls with a 9 mm handgun in his holster.
Dougan is one teacher among more than 20 teachers, administrators and other school employees in this town who will carry concealed weapons throughout the entire school day, making use of a little-known Arkansas law that allows the licensed, armed security guards on campus. After undergoing 53 hours of armed security guard training, Dougan and other teachers at the school will be considered as armed security guards.
“The plan we have been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,’ “ Superintendent David Hopkins has said. But as deadly incidents continued to happen in schools, he explained, the district decided, “That is not a plan.”
After the Connecticut attack, the idea of arming schoolhouses against gunmen was hotly debated across the entire country. The National Rifle Association has declared that it the best response to serious threats. But even in the more conservative states, most proposals faltered in the face of resistance from educators or warnings from insurance companies that schools would face higher premiums.
In the extremely conservative state of Arkansas, where the gun ownership is common and gun laws are permissive, no school district had ever used the law to arm teachers while they are on their job, according to the state Department of Education. The closest was the Lake Hamilton School District in Garland County, which for years has kept several guns locked up in case of emergency. Only a handful of trained administrators – not the other teachers – have access to the weapons.