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January18

Are guns the answer to protect schools?

 

That question is now up for debate with the introduction of House Bill 1087.

 

The bill would give a local school board “sole discretion” to create a sentinel – essentially an armed guard – program to “promote school safety.”

 

Boards would have the authority to arm employees, security personnel or any public volunteer in order to protect students, staff and others in the building “against violent attack by any terrorist, criminal, deranged person or other perpetrator of deadly force,” according to the bill.

 

ASBSD’s standing position on Safe and Secure Schools supports keeping “weapons” away from school grounds. Based on the bill’s current language, ASBSD plans to stand in opposition of it.

 

“We don’t think firearms in schools are good public policy,” Executive Director Wade Pogany said. “The bill’s language suggests increased protection, but more guns in schools increase the risk to student safety.”

 

Contact with local law enforcement agencies is required by the bill, but it does not state how to proceed if the law enforcement agency objects to the program.

 

The bill states a “school board may create, establish, and supervise” the program, but does not stipulate training for an armed individual in a crisis situation. It also fails to mention if the person would have to be armed with a weapon to be considered a threat or how to differentiate between a threatening person and a distressed student or adult.

 

ASBSD provides sample policies outlining school safety and emergency plan procedures in its policy reference manual that are widely accepted as sufficient protective measures.

 

“School safety and emergency plan policies are there to prevent and take action, if necessary, in a crisis situation,” Pogany said. “For years, South Dakota school districts have been charged with protecting the people in its schools and these procedures have proven effective.”

 

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