Arkansas school board elections to address school safety, choice
On September 17, six of the largest school districts in Arkansas will hold school board elections for a total of ten seats. The districts holding elections are Cabot Public School District, Conway Public Schools, Fort Smith Public Schools, Little Rock School District, Rogers School District and Springdale Public Schools. One seat is at stake in the Cabot, Conway and Rogers school districts, while two seats are at stake in Springdale and Fort Smith. Little Rock School District is holding an election for three seats on their Board of Education. With less than one week before election day, these school board candidates face a variety of challenges ranging from arming school district employees to school choice initiatives.
On August 1, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a legal opinion stating that school districts did not have the authority to arm and train their teachers and staff as security guards. This non-binding opinion has led school districts around Arkansas to decide whether or not they would employ these tactics. Fort Smith and Little Rock have been issued permits to license, train and arm members of their staff. In the wake of these decisions, the Arkansas State Police has decided to put all pending non-traditional applications for these licenses on hold. Fort Smith, Rogers, and Springdale have chosen to participate in Public School Choice Act 1227, which allows any student residing in Arkansas to attend schools within these districts if they so desire.
Spotlight: Little Rock School District
Little Rock School District is the largest school district in the state of Arkansas. Little Rock School District also has a significant achievement gap between black and white students, with black students achieving approximately 38 percent lower scores in literacy and mathematics across all grade levels. As a result, the district has set a goal of helping at least half of minority students to score at the proficient or advanced levels by 2015. Little Rock School District also recently issued a new dress code policy that would require teachers to wear "foundational garments" (underwear) and to ensure that these garments are not visible. The dress code also prohibits employees from wearing spandex, cut-off jeans, and flip flops. The dress code policy has come under fire from teachers union President Cathy Koehler, who worries that, "...if an employee refuses to go home and change they can be considered insubordinate and risk losing their job based on an opinion."
- Andrew DeMillo, Huffington Post, "Dustin McDaniel, Arkansas Attorney General, Says School Districts Can't Arm Teachers, Staff," August 1, 2013
- Lynda Altman, Examiner.com, "Arkansas Attorney General says teachers cannot be armed guards," August 2, 2013
- Alicia Agent, 5 News Online, "Fort Smith Schools Take Part in “Public School Choice” Act," May 31, 2013
- Springdale School District, "Parents," accessed September 10, 2013
- Rogers Public Schools, "School Choice" accessed September 10, 2013 (dead link)
- Speak Up Little Rock, "The Little Rock School District Desegregation Case," accessed September 10, 2013
- Little Rock School District, "Strategic Plan," accessed September 10, 2013
- Yahoo News, "Little Rock school district will now make teachers wear underwear," accessed September 10, 2013