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.

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.

(10) comments

robertg222
robertg222

With just one exception, the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011, every public shooting since 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. The massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, all took place in gun-free zones.
South Dakota is the first state to show any common sense to the violence problem. Lets home the rest of the country can follow SD's lead.

SportGunner
SportGunner

If study sessions are as prudent as certain administrators assert, they will surely hold them anyway. To do otherwise will expose their attempt at a stalling, diversionary tactic.

Building design changes to enhance security are certainly an excellent idea. They remain a 3-5 delayed solution, involve major renovation or new construction, and will be expensive.

A look at fire safety? Before giving that further consideration, I recommend a review of fire-related injury/fatality statistics of primary and secondary educational institutions. Or lack thereof, more correctly.

Mental health issues are always worthy of discussion. Districts should review their risk identification and threat assessment mechanisms and procedures on a continuing basis. Most of the action items on this aspect will not be for the districts however, but outside agencies and resources.

@reality-is-funny: Thank you for your service and your commitment to children. No one is expecting you to abandon your children and seek out a gunfight in the hallway. The law was not passed not for you to do such things. Rather, it is for you to serve as a last line of defense against a murderer breaching your classroom door to execute your children. "...lock the door, hide and pray..." is not an effective strategy.

I'm perplexed as to why people believe that lost or mislaid guns, gun-grabs, and negligent discharges will somehow become more prevalent in schools with these programs than they are in the general population. It's as if they don't realize how many go armed each day, surrounding them, in malls, restaurants, public meetings, churches, and universities.

Black Hills Political Economist
Black Hills Political Economist

... and the rate of home-schooled children doubles over night in Rapid City. I hope sentinel is not a fancy word for armed mall-cop. Wouldn't non-lethal tazers be sufficient for this cause?

CB777
CB777

Good decision. there has been an ongoing problem in the schools with some of the kids mental stability and outsiders. now that a bill comes up for allowing teachers to carry guns in schools after a lot of children have been shot and killed now the superintendents want to do something about it to help with kids that have issues instead of having the teachers protect our children with a gun. talking somebody down is not going to work these days I bet they feel different if it happen in there school! I'm glad for the bill being passed. too many innocent children dying.

reality-is-funny
reality-is-funny

I am a teacher, a hunter, and a veteran. I use guns, am comforable with guns, and used to have a concealed weapons permit. That being said, I won't ever bring a gun to school. My job is to keep the kids in my room safe. We lock the door, hide and pray. An OK corral shootout is not appropriate. I also can't go charging into the halls to enter into a gun fight leaving my students behind to fend for themselves. The smart plan. Liason Officers. These are trained deputies who have no supervision responsiblities and can respond to a threat on campus in minutes and do what they need to do. We had to cut our liason officer with the 10% cuts a few years ago. If the state wants to solve a problem, Fund the liason officers, put a bunch of veterans to work when they come back from the Middle East. I loved our liason officer. He was a great infulence on our kids.

vikingobsessed
vikingobsessed

I wouldn't have had much problem with police officers in the schools...Stevens and Central already have liason officers. This seems to be a solution in search of a problem. And there is no mention as to who will bear the responsibility if something goes wrong...the bill absolves the state...if a gun accidentally goes off in a school what recourse is there? I don't want my granddaughter to be in a classroom with an armed kindergarten teacher, custodian, principal, etc. This is not what America is supposed to be about. Anymore we are a knee-jerk reaction country filled with outrage at every little perceived slight. I'm sure those who opposed this in the legislature will be branded by the local fringe group as being anti-American and anti-gun.

Normality
Normality

With all due respect to the fine officers of the law we have here, it would be well to be reminded of the recent incident in the Los Angeles area where eight policemen fired approximately 110 rounds into a vehicle driven by two unarmed women in a case of a mistake in identity. What if a police officer's gun was accidentially discharged? What is the recourse? What if we do nothing and there is an incident of some wacko attacking our school? Who bears the responsibility then, or do we justify in our minds of being absolved from fault or guilt because we did nothing out of fear of the remote chance something might go wrong.

I don't think anyone really wants to have armed guards in our schools, yet reality tells us that may have become a necessity in today's world. This law does not make such a move as mandatory, and does not prevent Mr. Kirkegaard or Mr. Mitchell from engaging in studies to bring forth better solutions. I sincerely hope they can come up with a plan which excludes the need for armed sentinnels. Until they do, at least the legislature has given the school districts an option beyond making these gun free zones a prime target for the warped minds.

TLH
TLH

An hysterical, Ill-conceived and utterly useless "solution" to a legitimate issue. Congratulations to our state government for embarrassing us on a national stage. If this is the best that our leaders can come up with, we derserve all the ridicule we get for it.

HOLY COW
HOLY COW

Awesome- A step in the right direction. Rather my kids protected than not.

Keith
Keith

This knee jerk decision makes even less than people wanting to ban guns.

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