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January 29, 2013 04:55 PM

School Sentinel Bill Passes House

Sioux Falls, SD

South Dakota schools are a step closer to having armed guards on campus. The House of Representatives passed House Bill 1087 Tuesday in a 42-27 vote. The bill would allow districts to arm school employees, hired security personnel or volunteers.

The bill leaves discretion up to the schools. Proponents argue it grants more local control to districts, especially those that are not located near law enforcement, to train and arm their own security and staff. Those against the bill say more guns are not the answer.

According to the bill, the school board must run its security plan by the county sheriff before implementing a sentinel program. Willing volunteers, staff and hired security personnel are also mandated to go through state training and certification in order to implement a program.

Proponents say the bill won't punish districts who choose not to participate, but will allow those who want to arm staff the opportunity. They also argue the bill would be especially useful for rural school districts who can be 20 minutes or more away from the nearest local law enforcement agency.

Those voting against the measure said the answer was not in allowing guns, but in providing more funding for schools to increase building security and fund school resource officer programs, which have been successfully implemented in some South Dakota communities. Opponents also argued putting guns in the hands of people not trained to use them could be more harmful to students.

According to the bill, teachers and staff cannot be armed without their individual consent. It now moves on to a Senate committee for review.

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