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Arming school employees is South Dakota's answer to school gun violence

Arming school employees is South Dakota's answer to school gun violence

The South Dakota legislature has voted by a margin of 21-14 to pass a bill allowing school staff and teachers to be armed in the classroom. School administrators and staff had opposed the measure, but supporters reason that the law will prevent a repeat of incidents such as Sandy Hook and Columbine.

According to the sponsor of the bill, Republican Senator Craig Tieszen, the choice to arm staff and teachers would be left up to the individual school districts.

Senator Tieszen told reporters that those who would choose to commit these crimes would be less likely if they thought the teachers and staff were armed, stating,

“The possibility of an armed presence in any of our schools is a deterrent.”

Teachers and other school staff would be required to complete a 'School Sentinel Program,' which would include firearms training by law enforcement officers. As well, those who choose not to arm themselves would be able to do so without any prejudice.

Detractors have a different point of view, stating that many teachers are not comfortable about guns being inside the school. One who opposes the bill, Democratic Representative Troy Heinert, reasons that teachers should not be expected to add the duties of law enforcement to their responsibilities, telling reporters,

“Doesn’t this blur the line between a teacher and a law enforcement officer? Do we want to tell our children the only way to be safe is to carry a gun?”

Sandra Waltman, representing the South Dakota Education Association maintains that firearms should only be in the hands of those who are trained to used them, claims that guns should only be provided to trained professionals, but does not believe any training program would be able to prepare a teacher to properly respond to an incident such as the massacre in Newtown, CT.

Waltman told reporters,

“It’s one thing to have firearms training. It’s a completely different thing to be trained on how to handle those very difficult circumstances if they should arise. We believe that students should be taught by professional teachers, and we think they should be protected by professional law enforcement.”

The vote to pass the bill comes on the heels of a recent survey that revealed over nine out of ten teachers feel safe in their schools, and almost three quarters would refuse to arm themselves should the opportunity be made available.

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
  • This is also a ruse to ruin public schools by forcing teachers to take on so much responsibility that they either burn out and quit, or accidentally shoot somebody thus "proving" the erroneous contention that public school teachers are "bad." Between anti-abortion laws and this South Dakota is seriously losing it.

  • phoeniXZarine

    This is a good idea! I know tons of teachers who would be more comfortable knowing they could defend their students if something happens. I had teachers that would sit by the door with the biggest book they could get their hands on during a lock down, just in case someone came through the door. While this is not as good as having an official law enforcement presence on campus ots the next best thing. Way to go South Dakota!

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