PIERRE | Despite opposition from the education community, the school sentinel bill is now just one step away from becoming state law after the House of Representatives voted for it Monday on a 40-19 vote.

The bill, which gives school boards the authority to allow armed personnel in school buildings, now awaits the signature of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who has yet to take a position on the controversial legislation.

The version that passed Monday also requires the personnel to receive training through the state’s law enforcement officers program before they could be armed in a school.

“This remains entirely up to the locals,” Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said.

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 Monday 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.

"We are looking at lots of different areas of how we can improve security," he said. "I'm not recommending that that (the bill) be one of the options we look at here in Rapid City."

Mitchell said he expects to find out more about the bill's effects on districts at an upcoming meeting with the South Dakota Department of Education.

Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, urged final passage of the bill on Monday. She acknowledged that the education community is already involved in a conversation about school safety but said school sentinels require legislative authority.

Rep. Scott Parsley, D-Madison, asked for the bill to be sent to a House-Senate conference committee.

“This bill has had a lot of emotion tied to it,” he said.

Parsley said he had hoped the bill would have wound up in a summer study session. He said there are other possible solutions to concerns about school safety besides arming personnel.

But House Republican leader David Lust of Rapid City said a conference committee’s true purpose is to settle differences between the two chambers rather than to kill legislation.

“I think you’ve had ample time to view the amendments,” he said.

House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton said school board members back home “have a million questions” about how it would work and that it would have been wise to study the issue over the summer.

Parsley added that school boards, superintendents and education organizations oppose the bill and want a summer study instead. He said that once again the Legislature is saying it knows more than school officials about how to run their schools.

(11) comments

Vesuvius
Vesuvius

Being a product of the SD education system, I am appalled by this legislation. The wording to Bill 1087 is extremely vague and gives too much power to the school board. For instance, "Section 1. Any school board may create, establish, and supervise the arming of school employees, hired security personnel, or volunteers ..."

Who is considered a volunteer? According to the Webster dictionary a volunteer is "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service." So there is the potential for someone to "volunteer" pulling weeds in the school's lawn and is allowed to carry the weapon but said person is actually there with different intentions... How about the school employee who, carrying a weapon, is overpowered by an individual/group of individuals with a different motive?

This legislation is not solving the problem! It is making the problem be more accessible for those who wish to do wrong doing. We're better off providing defense classes to "school employees, hired security personnel, or volunteers," because the next action that will be mandated is requiring students to have a psychological analysis done before they can attend school.

Roland
Roland

Come on guys, the schools are not going to "arm teachers." Most larger schools, nothing will change. For the smaller schools, this gives them the OPTION of having someone armed.

It does not mean they will. That is where each individual school and district can decide for themselves.

Deklan
Deklan

Indeed.

The additional requirements that school boards must discuss the program in open meetings and that the decision to adopt the sentinel program can be referred to public vote leaves local control to the school boards and the parents.

Potatoes Browning
Potatoes Browning

Wow!! We can't figure out a way to improve teacher pay, but we can spend time debating this idiotic dead end. Maybe we could consult with Steven Segal or the "Dog" bounty hunter, sounds like they could be a big help here. I taught for over 40 years in South Dakota and can think nothing good can come from this. I believe the word "sentinal" comes from the Latin meaning "old undertrained fat guy sleeping". Got to give it to So Dak politicos......whether in DC or Pierre, the can't help but do embarrassing things.

farmer
farmer

Fear mongers always do this what if , well we know what has happened in gun free school zones.

Rickdm
Rickdm

I hope the person or persons that made the paper ring rope were paying attention.

RLJ
RLJ

Right to bear arms! Finally the teachers and children will not be sitting ducks waiting to be pecked off. Maybe these lunatics will think twice if they know there will be a teacher or staff member that will shoot back.

Roger Cornelius
Roger Cornelius

Next headline will be, "Teacher Accidentally Shoots Little Johnny".

Black Hawk
Black Hawk

Roger, I agree with you and there is one aspect that everyone has avoided. Who is going to pay the insurance premiums for the teachers/staff? If Johnny is shot, who will pay for the defense because a lawsuit is guaranteed? I'm sure that most of the "right to bear arms" folks would squeal if their property taxes go up to pay for an accident. They should have spent the summer thinking about the problem and let cooler heads prevail.

amurrican
amurrican

good for our lawmakers for protecting the little children in they're schools

Antifascist
Antifascist

Wow, lets just let fear run every aspect of our lives. This is one of the worst ideas I've seen come out of the legislature.
People better prepare themselves for how they will act when some student takes away the gun from the sentinal and shoots somebody.
Just another knee jerk reaction in the wrong direction.

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