LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would allow Arkansas school districts to arm teachers and staff and would abolish the state Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies received a House committee’s endorsement Thursday.

LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would allow Arkansas school districts to arm teachers and staff and would abolish the state Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies received a House committee’s endorsement Thursday.


The House Judiciary Committee gave a "do pass" recommendation to Senate Bill 164 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton.


In past years, the board has allowed a few school districts to arm teachers and staff, but in August 2013, then-Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an advisory opinion that the board lacked legal authority to do so.


The board voted in September 2013 to stop allowing new school districts to arm employees but said districts already using employees as armed security guards could continue the practice for two years.


SB 164 would allow all Arkansas school districts to apply to the Arkansas State Police for permission to arm teachers and staff. State police would establish a training curriculum, conduct background checks and issue licenses to school employees who are selected by their districts to double as security officers.


"Ideally, we’d have a resource officer in every school and this wouldn’t have to be addressed, but we don’t have the funds to do that and the schools don’t have the funds to do that," Hutchinson told the House Judiciary Committee.


Hutchinson also said that in some school districts, the response time for the local sheriff’s office is 40 minutes.


"It is unconscionable and unacceptable to allow an active shooter in a school have 40 minutes to execute as many kids and teachers as the shooter can," he said.


The bill also would abolish the state Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies and give all of the board’s duties to the Arkansas State Police. Hutchinson, a lawyer and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the board has not always followed the law in issuing licenses.


He said the board has been "granting people licenses who do not legally qualify for a license, including two months ago granting a sex offender license to go into people’s homes (to set up security systems) over the objection of state police."


Randy Perry of Springdale, a member of the board, testified against the bill. He said the board hears appeals of license denials, citing as an example a man who at age 64 was denied a license because at age 18 he was convicted of a misdemeanor for giving his 17-year-old girlfriend alcohol.


"The man had no more issues in his entire life … so yes, he was granted a license to be a security officer. I think that’s a fair and equitable thing," he said.


Perry also said that abolishing the board was an extreme way to address Hutchinson’s concerns.


"It would be almost like saying. ‘One of you representatives brought forth a bill somebody didn’t like. Well, let’s get rid of all the House, get rid of all the Senate, and let’s have the governor do all the decision-making,’" he said.


The committee endorsed SB 164 in a voice vote in which no "no" votes were heard. The bill, which passed previously in the Senate, heads next to the full House.