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Bill Would Arm 'Sentinels' In SD Schools

January 17, 2013, 6:01 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Bill Would Arm 'Sentinels' In SD Schools

Legislation has been filed that would allow South Dakota school districts to arm employees. It opens the door for administrators, teachers or security guards to carry a gun but the bill does not make it a requirement.

Following the tragedy in Connecticut last month, several South Dakota lawmakers talked of a plan to arm school employees. The legislation filed Thursday is a combination of those ideas.

Right now only law enforcement officers are allowed to carry guns inside schools. This bill would allow districts to set up what's called a 'school sentinel program' which would arm school employees, security guards or whoever the district chooses to carry a weapon.

"Superintendents as you can imagine have a lot of opinions. Everything from a lot of concerns to ideas about the bill and what it would do in our schools," Dell Rapids Superintendent Summer Schultz said.

Districts would have to consult with local law enforcement about the ‘school sentinel’ plan it sets up.

A survey taken by the School Administrators of South Dakota found 55 percent of administrators in the state would not feel comfortable being armed in schools and 70 percent would not feel comfortable arming other employees.

Schultz says Dell Rapids does have an armed school resource officer. She says it's too early to say if her district supports the legislation but she believes rural districts would look at it differently.

"They're going to look at this much different than Dell Rapids in knowing that we have not only a school resource officer in place, but we also have officers on duty right here in town. So they're going to look at it much differently than we are," Schultz said.

One of the prime sponsors of the bill says that's why the legislation does not require South Dakota districts to have a 'school sentinel.'

"All this bill does is give them that opportunity neither promoting, nor discouraging guns in schools. I think that's the best issue that's solved at the local level and is best determined by local conditions," Senator Craig Tieszen said.

The Sioux Falls School District says they agree with the American Association of School Administrators position that opposes bringing more guns into schools by putting them in the hands of teachers and administrators. However, they do support more funding for more school resource officers.

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