LITTLE ROCK — A member of a state board that voted Wednesday to allow some school districts to arm teachers and staff has resigned from the panel.
Joey Smith of Searcy resigned from the state Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies after the board’s Wednesday meeting, during which the panel cleared the way for up to 13 school districts to allow trained and registered personnel to serve as armed security guards for the next two years.
The seven-member board split 3-2 on the issue, with one member absent and the chairman abstaining. Smith cast one of the "no" votes.
"Effective Sept. 11, 2013, I am resigning my position as a board member with the Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies," Smith said in a resignation letter dated Wednesday and submitted to the governor’s office. "I would like to thank you for allowing me to serve the people of Arkansas."
Smith did not specify his reasons for leaving the board in the letter and did not immediately return a message seeking comment left for him Thursday afternoon at S&S Security Alarms of Searcy, which he owns.
Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Smith to the board in June 2012. His term was set to expire in May 2016.
Ralph Sims, the board’s chairman, said Thursday, "Joey Smith is a highly respected professional in the alarm industry. His resignation is unfortunate, but his service to the state of Arkansas as a member of the board has been appreciated."
Last month, the state Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies voted to suspend all registrations it had approved previously for school employees in 13 school districts to serve as armed security guards. The board acted after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an Aug. 1 advisory opinion that the board could not legally authorize school employees to carry guns on campus.
The panel heard appeals of the suspensions Wednesday, and though the attorney general’s office maintained its position that schools cannot arm their personnel under current law, the board voted to rescind the suspensions and allow all 13 districts previously approved for such programs to proceed for two years.
The vote was a compromise of sorts, intended to give the Legislature time to consider the issue in 2015 and give districts time to develop alternative security plans. The board said it would not accept new applications and would not allow the already approved schools to add more employees as security guards.
Asked Thursday how he felt about the board’s action, Sims said, "I think the board did what it felt it had to do to give the affected districts an opportunity to make other arrangements."
A state legislator requested the attorney general’s opinion on the matter after the Clarksville School District received national media attention for a plan to arm teachers and staff this fall.
McDaniel said in his opinion that a state law allows the board to authorize private businesses to train and arm employees as security guards but that the law does not apply to school districts because they are not private businesses.