State House approves bill allowing armed teachers in schools
South Dakota House members passed the bill allowing teachers to be armed in schools. The so-called School Sentinels Bill allows school boards to implement a plan to arm teachers, but it does not mandate a teacher to be armed.
Proponents said the measure is a deterrent, so they compared it to having an armed sky marshal on airplanes.
HB1087 sponsor Republican Representative Scott Craig, of Rapid City, said he wishes he didn't have to propose this bill, but he said it needed to be done.
"So it is incumbent upon us to do something and do something now especially because of what we do know regarding potential threats that would face our schools in the days to come," Craig said.
However, opponents say teachers aren't trained to pull a gun on human beings.
"As a classroom teacher I would not for a moment or a heartbeat hesitate to throw myself in front of a bad guy with a gun. However, I would hesitate if I were expected to draw a gun and point it at that person," Democrat Representative Paula Hawks, of Hartford, said to House members.
Democrat Representative Troy Heinert, of Mission, said we should be considering something other than arming teachers. Heinert said, if we truly care about the safety of our children then they should fund the proper School Resource Officer programs; which he said are already working in many schools across the state.
Much of the debate's discussion was centered on amendments proposed by House members of the Democratic Party. Many of the proposed amendments added an appropriation to help school districts fund training for teachers to carry hand guns. However, republican House members were quick to pounce on the tactic.
House Majority Leader David Lust, of Rapid City, claimed democrats were attempting to weigh the bill down, because any bill with an appropriation attached to it needs two-thirds support from legislators.
The measure was amended last week in the House Education Committee and Tuesday on the House floor. Now, the local law enforcement that has jurisdiction in the school district has the final say of a school board's school sentinel policy. This gives a city's police chief final approval of a school board's plan and leaves the sheriff's approval for more rural school districts.
The School Sentinel Bill was passed by a vote of 42-27. It heads next to a Senate committee.