Despite opposition from the education community, the school sentinel bill was signed into law Friday by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

The bill gives school boards the authority to allow armed personnel in school buildings.

The House had previously approved the plan, but the Senate added requirements that said school boards must discuss the program in open meetings and decisions to adopt the sentinel programs can be referred to public vote.

Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, said the Senate amendments strengthened the legislation.

“It is now a better bill and I ask you to support it again,” he said.

Educators interviewed earlier this week remained unconvinced the legislation is needed.

Don Kirkegaard, superintendent of the Meade School District, said he has never been in favor of the bill and would have preferred a summer study session on school safety.

"We should be looking at the big picture and that may be part of the big picture, but it's not something I'm going to promote," he said.

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Kirkegaard said a study session would have allowed educators to explore everything from facility designs to fire safety, all of which play a key role in safety. Such a session would have brought together "all of the players" for a more comprehensive safety plan, he said.

"I just wish ... everybody would have talked a little bit together before we started passing legislation," he said. "I don't believe there will be very many districts, at least to begin with, who are going to jump at putting sentinels in a school until they've done a lot of research."

Kirkegaard said there is concern about the provision in the bill that allows a decision to be referred to a vote. In small districts where as few as 50 people vote on school board elections, 10 people could feasibly refer such a decision to a vote, regardless of how a school has voted, he said.

Tim Mitchell, superintendent of the Rapid City Area Schools district, said the bill does not address the "broader" issue of school safety. That broader look includes how to deal with the mental health issues of students as well as facility updates, he said.

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