Tuesday, August 13, 2013

South Dakota allows school districts to arm teachers

A South Dakota commission unanimously approved rules for training teachers, other school staff members or volunteers to carry guns in schools under a state law aimed at improving security, reported the Rapid City Journal.

"We believe this package both carries out the directives of the Legislature and best protects our children under that scheme," Attorney General Marty Jackley said after the Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission passed the rules.

While President Barack Obama and officials in many states sought to pass gun control measures after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December, the South Dakota Legislature instead passed a law that allows school districts to decide whether to arm school leaders in order to deter would-be attackers. Local law enforcement officials must approve a school's plan.

Under the rules, the so-called school sentinels will undergo at least 80 hours of training in firearms proficiency, use of force, legal issues, first aid and weapons retention and storage. The rules will not take effect until September, so officials say the first training class probably won't be held until next summer _ when teachers and others have time for the two-week course.

Only those approved by a school board and local law enforcement officials could be trained to have guns in schools. Officials have said the fee charged to school districts for the initial 80-hour course is expected to be $700. To retain qualifications, sentinels would have to complete another eight hours of training each year.

Jackley said no school district has formally notified the state it plans to arm teachers and others under the law.

The Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission originally planned to certify school sentinels in a process similar to how actual law officers are licensed, but had to drop the certification because it's not authorized in the law. A certification would have allowed the state commission to remove a sentinel at any time for misconduct, but that will now be up to local school boards and law enforcement agencies.

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