Former Campbell County Commissioner and Gillette City Councilman Stephen F. Hughes, 66, was found dead inside his business, Landmark Inc., early Friday morning, according to information released by …
PIERRE, S.D.— A bill that would allow South Dakota school districts to arm teachers and other personnel with guns was approved Wednesday by the state Senate after supporters said the so-called sentinels could help prevent tragedies like December’s grade-school shooting in Connecticut.
Senators voted 21-14 to pass the measure, which was approved earlier by the House where it now returns for consideration of changes made by the Senate. Those changes include a provision allowing school district residents to refer a school board’s decision to arm teachers to a public vote.
The measure’s main sponsor, Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said the bill would not force any school district to arm its teachers and would not force any teacher to carry a gun.
Law enforcement officers are stationed in schools in some larger cities, but many rural schools are far from any law enforcement agency, Tieszen said. Those rural schools might want to train and arm teachers, other school personnel or volunteers who are retired law officers, he said.
“Really, this needs to be an issue that’s settled locally,” Tieszen said.
Representatives of school boards, school administrators and teachers oppose the bill. They say arming teachers could make schools more dangerous, lead to accidental shootings and put guns in the hands of people not adequately trained to shoot in emergency situations.
Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, said he voted against the bill because he is worried school districts might arm the wrong personnel. He said the state should instead provide money so schools could afford to station professional law enforcement officers in their buildings.
Under the bill, local law enforcement agencies would have to approve a school’s program.
Teachers and others taking part in such a program would undergo training devised by the same state commission that oversees the training of law enforcement officers.
The Senate approved one change that protects law enforcement officials from liability for approving such programs.