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South Dakota Will Now Permit Guns for Teachers with District Approval

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed a bill that would allow teachers and other school workers to carry firearms on school grounds, despite opposition from some people in the education community itself.

Daugaard, a Republican, signed the so-called "school sentinel" bill after it was sent to his desk on March 7, and already had indicated that he would support it. As the Rapid City Journal reports, the bill originated in the House of Representatives was altered significantly in the Senate to require school boards that are considering allowing teachers and others to carry guns on school property to hold their discussions about the proposal in public. Through an amendment to the bill attached by state senators, the matter can also be sent to a public vote for final approval in a district.

Note that the bill does not require districts to arm teachers. It merely allows them to do so. It also says that under the provisions of the bill, armed school security personnel can also be hired.

As my colleague Nirvi Shah has discussed, Texas law allows school boards to decide for themselves if they want to arm teachers, and Utah policy allows anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds. So South Dakota is not breaking entirely new ground here.

School boards wishing to arm teachers under the new South Dakota law must first get approval from law enforcement with the appropriate jurisdiction, and any school employee wishing to act as a "school sentinel" must first complete a training course. In addition, no school worker can be forced to carry a gun against his or her will. The act also states that school boards and law enforcement agencies can't be held liable for injuries or other actions undertaken to implement the plan.

Rep. Scott Craig, a Republican, said the bill in its final form was "better" than the original bill due to the changes allowing greater public oversight. But the Journal also quotes two district superintendents who don't like what the bill allows—one, Tim Mitchell of Rapid City schools, said the "school sentinel" plan doesn't address broader issues affecting school safety, like mental health. The South Dakota Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, has also come out against the law.

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