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SD School Sentinel Bill Moves Forward

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Arming teachers and principals with guns in South Dakota schools is one step closer to becoming a reality.

A Senate committee voted 5-4 Friday to send the school sentinel bill to the full Senate, the measure has already passed in the House.

Supporters of House Bill 1087, said school boards need the option of arming faculty members to protect against attacks like the December school shooting in Connecticut.

However, officials from Sioux Falls and Beresford school districts don't believe this is a good idea.

"As far as I'm concerned placing firearms in schools is not the answer. There's got to be a better option out there," said Field.

Brian Field, superintendent of the Beresford School District, said teachers are trained to be educators, not to carry weapons at work.

"40 hours of firearm training in my opinion, does not prepare anyone to take a life," said Field.

However, supporters in Pierre, feel school boards need the option of arming teachers, administrators or volunteers, in case of an emergency.

While Field doesn't feel this is the right direction for the Beresford School District, he did agree with one part of the bill.

"One of the amendments that was proposed in the Senate State Affairs was to do a study, a comprehensive safety school study, I would be an advocate for that," said Field.

The study would focus on alternatives and practices in school safety.

For the Sioux Falls School District, President of the School Board, Doug Morrison, said if the sentinel bill passes in the Senate, the board wouldn’t be granting guns to teachers.

"We actually have trained police officers in each one of our high schools and middle schools and they cover the elementary schools on an as needed basis," said Morrison.

Morrison said the School District has a strong partnership with the Police Department and luckily the resource officers are on site for protection, act as counselors and are well known by the kids.

An option Field in Beresford would love to entertain, but does not have the funds to provide officers at all the schools.

However, the Beresford School District does have a security manual in place and are continuing to look at ways to increase safety on school grounds.

"We are looking to add more security cameras, especially at our elementary school campus," said Field.

If the state senate approves House Bill 1087, the legislation will move to the desk of Governor Dennis Daugaard for final approval.

If passed, the sentinels would have to be approved by local law enforcement and trained by state officials.
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