After the tragic December shooting in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers started looking at ways to make their schools safer. In South Dakota, that could mean arming teachers.
Wednesday, state senators passed a bill that would give educators and other personnel guns. Supporters say it'll make schools safer, opponents say it's asking for trouble.
Senators passed the measure 21-14. In a nut shell, it would allow districts to choose whether or not to arm teachers, or other volunteers, and wouldn't force anyone to carry a gun if they didn't want to.
Sen. Craig Tieszen of Rapid City (R) is the main sponsor of the bill. He says unlike bigger districts, rural districts can be far away from the help needed in an emergency.
"We have, frankly, rural schools that are in areas far from any town, far from any law enforcement. A very different situation that demands different considerations," said Tieszen.
The bill would require training before any so called "sentinel" is given a gun. Still, opponents say it's a bad idea. Teacher's union South Dakota Education Association says guns should be left in the hands of professionals.
"It's one thing to have firearms training. It's a completely different thing to be trained on how to handle those very difficult circumstances if they should arise. We believe that students should be taught by professional teachers, and we think they should be protected by professional law enforcement," said group spokesperson Sandra Waltman.
Local school officials at Dakota Valley haven't rendered their opinion of the bill yet. Although administrators worry its passage could create a tempest of debate in the community. They say it could divert attention from what's really important.
"It defects everything we're trying to do with reading, writing and arithmetic, and getting the kids ready for society. All we do, we spend hours and hours debating whether there should be a gun or shouldn't be a gun in school," said Dakota Valley Superintendent Al Leber.
The bill was passed by the House earlier this year. It'll head back, after the Senate made changes including a provision allowing school district residents to refer a school board's decision to arm teachers to a public vote.
Cindy Berner-Schlichte is spearheading an effort to collect goods to bring to those in need, people who lost everything in the path of destruction. She's filling horse trailers with diapers, water,More >>
Cindy Berner-Schlichte is spearheading an effort to collect goods to bring to those in need, people who lost everything in the path of destruction. She's filling horse trailers with diapers, water, snacks, and tools that can be used to cleanup debris.More >>
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