PIERRE, SD -
In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, political leaders and school administrators alike have looked at ways to better protect students and faculty at schools.
House Bill 1087, commonly referred to as the School Sentinel Bill, was discussed in Pierre on Wednesday. It would let local School Boards decide whether they wanted to arm faculty, volunteers or a security guard. Opinions of what the best route may be differ greatly.
As a substitute teacher, Representative Betty Olson says she would feel helpless if a shooter walked into her classroom.
"I couldn't protect the kids in that classroom, or myself, if we had one of these lunatics, like they had in Connecticut, come in and start shooting up the place," Olson said.
That's why she sponsored the legislation. Florence Thompson agrees and says all gun-free zones have done is made schools an easy target.
"These incidents take place very quickly and if the guy in the next classroom is a retired cop and he has a gun and he’s right there, it’s going to save lives," Thompson said.
Many people were glad to hear the decision given to local school boards, local control. But some say this is a decision that carries too much weight and should be made at a state level.
One man who has spent nearly his entire life in the military says the difficulty of these situations is immense.
"Law enforcement and combat troops spend years honing this very perishable skill. A school filled with young people is an unforgiving environment," Lt. Col. Orson Ward, said.
And some, including New Underwood Superintendent and veteran Jeff Marlette, fear the legislation is a reactionary response. He says guns aren't needed in schools.
"Every single day, close to 125,000 school age children, K through 12, walk through the doors of over 300 schools. In my recollection as an educator, I’m aware of only one incident that occurred over 20 years ago where there was a serious gun incident in one of our schools," Marlette said.
And while they may not agree on all aspects of the bill, no one in this room wants South Dakota students to ever be put in that situation again.
The House Education Committee deferred a vote on the bill to Friday.
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