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SD Bill Proposes State Fund For School Safety

January 29, 2014, 5:13 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Bill Proposes State Fund For School Safety

South Dakota lawmakers will debate school safety in the next few weeks.

A new proposal filed Wednesday would set up a school safety fund to help local districts pay for security improvements.

"Definitely, it’s something we're always aware of," Beresford Superintendent Brian Field said as he talked Wednesday about school safety.

In Beresford, there is no school resource program but Field says the local police department is quick to respond to incidents at any of the schools. The district has also taken more safety precautions, such as upgrading security cameras.

The legislation being considered by the South Dakota legislature could help districts pay for those improvements.

"One of the struggles we've had of course has been funding and I know in the bill it says it allows for matching funds that you can apply for at the state," Field said.

The bill would set up a statewide school safety fund that would begin $5 million. It would provide matching funds to districts to make security improvements to buildings, pay for a school resource officer program, or hire more school counselors or mental health professionals. Districts would apply for the money through the South Dakota Secretary of Education.

Field likes the proposal but is concerned that tight budgets may prevent schools from taking part.

"The biggest struggle we'll have is coming up with the funds that would allow us to do something extra like that because we're doing everything we can right now to maintain our staff and our programs," Field said.

However, Field believes the proposal is a step toward improving school safety and protecting students and staff.

"I think the bill has a lot of merit and if schools are looking to upgrade some safety areas, looking at a SRO (school resource officer) program, I think it's a good opportunity for them to look at those types of things," Field said.

The bill was just introduced this week so it could face many changes and amendments as it makes its way through the capitol.

The first hearing on the legislation will be Friday.

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