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January 30, 2013 06:07 PM

Rural School Reacts To Sentinel Bill

The so-called "school sentinel bill" is sparking a lot of debate. The bill would allow school districts to arm employees if they decide to do so. Supporters say it could be especially useful in rural schools without law enforcement near.

Herreid is a small town in Campbell County. It doesn't have law enforcement stationed in town but it does have a school.

The superintendent says he has a lot of thoughts running through his head when it comes to this bill. He isn't personally comfortable with the idea of an employee walking through the school armed.

"I do have one staff member who's been here for several years. He's in the National Guard and he's been trained in weaponry. He said he wouldn't even feel good having to carry a weapon in a school setting," superintendent Ron Jacobson said.

But Jacobson also isn't comfortable telling another district what's best for its community.

"The board of a small school district has got more of a feel for what the community wants and would allow," Jacobson said.

The Herreid school has taken other safety measures. It's trained students and staff how to respond in emergency situations. The school only has one door throughout the building unlocked during the day.

"We're out in rural America and everybody knows everybody. Putting someone on staff with a gun in the hallway, I don't know if that's the answer," Jacobson said.

Jacobson is concerned about liability if staff members have guns but he hasn't talked with his school board about the bill so he isn't sure if the district as a whole would agree with his personal view.

If the bill required schools to have armed staff, he said he'd be opposed. But not necessarily if, as it reads now, it lets local boards decide how to best keep their kids safe.

"We have to prepare. Whether we cover all the bases or not, I don't know,” Jacobson said. “We attempt to."

Different education groups in South Dakota oppose the bill. But legislators behind the bill say they’ve received numerous e-mails from school board members across the state supporting it.
 

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