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Lawmakers Consult Superintendent About Safety

January 7, 2013, 6:00 PM by Derek Olson

Lawmakers Consult Superintendent About Safety

It's the eve of the 2013 legislative session in Pierre.  One piece of legislation that will likely be getting a lot of attention is a proposed bill being crafted by incoming state Representative Scott Craig that would allow certified school officials to carry guns on campus.

Rapid City Schools Superintendent Tim Mitchell met with Rep. Craig and other state lawmakers last week to discuss school safety.  Though Mitchell says he isn't sold on the idea of arming teachers in his district, he's hopeful that the conversations will lead to better legislation and safer schools.

What can be done to make public schools safer?  It's a topic that's gotten a lot of attention in the month after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.

But as state legislators prepare to take up the issue in the 2013 legislative session, including a proposed bill to allow certified teachers to carry guns, they are including school administrators in the conversation.

"I really like the idea that the legislators felt that it was important for them to become more educated about what is and what is not happening across school districts across the state, and then to try to craft legislation that just allows schools to do what they need to do so they can make their places safer," Mitchell said.

Mitchell doesn't believe that arming school staff members in his district is the solution.  But the superintendent says that's because of the security measures that are already in place at his schools.

"In Rapid City schools, as a bigger district, we do have a lot of security measures and one of them is school liaison officers and they do carry weapons.  We have two in every high school and one in every middle school," Mitchell said.

On top of armed liaison officers, the Rapid City School District is looking at other ways to secure its schools.

"One of the things that we're looking at in our capital project is we're carving out about $150,000 to take a look at entrances to buildings and making them more secure with keyless entries, more cameras," Mitchell said.

But those measures aren't in place in all of the state's school districts, many of which are in rural places where law enforcement may take longer to respond to an emergency.

"Other school districts need to take a look at do you have access to school liaisons? Do you have access to immediate response of law enforcement?  And what should they do?" Mitchell said.

Whether or not that means arming teachers will likely continue to be a hot topic for the foreseeable future.

KELOLAND News did try to contact Rep. Scott Craig for comment, but never heard back from him.

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