SD School Sentinel Bill Gaining Momentum
by Ashley Kringen, Reporter
February 28, 2013 8:28 PM
The school sentinel bill continues to gain momentum in Pierre.
The bill gives South Dakota school boards the option of arming faculty members which many believe would increase safety in case of an emergency.
The measure passed in the House and the Senate and now the bill goes back to the House so they can approve amendments the Senate made.
Now, many law enforcement agencies in South Dakota are monitoring this bill closely, waiting to see the fate of House Bill 1087.
"If it becomes a reality, then we'll be prepared," said Johnson.
The School Sentinel bill could have effects that reach far outside of classroom walls, and Lincoln County Sheriff Dennis Johnson said there's been a lot of talk about what will happen if this bill passes in South Dakota.
"We'd put together some sort of protocol, probably work with other agencies, our state's attorney's office and try to put together a workable, reasonable and feasible plan," said Johnson.
However, the decision would be up to individual school boards to allow teachers, administrators and volunteers to carry guns on school grounds.
If the school sentinel bill passes, Lincoln County officials will look at all alternatives including having resource officers available at all schools across the county.
"A recently retired law enforcement officer, maybe someone who has had extensive training and experience already," said Johnson.
An armed resource officer is already placed at Harrisburg schools in Lincoln County, and recently officers have been going through 'active shooter' training, working on tactics when dealing with a threat.
"You work on responding to an active shooter, wouldn't necessarily have to be in a school, but predominately that seems to be the focus," said Johnson.
Whether the school sentinel bill passes or not, Sheriff Johnson said officers have to be ready to respond to any kind of emergency.
"In the world we live in today it's something that you have to do your absolute best to be prepared for to react and resolve that situation as quickly as possible," said Johnson.
Those against arming teachers say schools could become more dangerous, leading to accidental shootings and putting guns in the hands of people with no extensive training when it comes to emergency situations.
The Legislative session comes to an end next Friday and if passed, the bill goes to Governor Dennis Daugarrd for final approval.