Uh oh—looks like it’s time for parents in the Colton, Lyons, and Crooks to open-enroll their kids over to Chester, Baltic, and Hartford. In a fit of foolishness, the Tri-Valley school board is on course to make its school district the first to take advantage of South Dakota’s 2013 school gunslinger law:
The Tri-Valley School District became the first South Dakota school district to approve the state’s school sentinel program.
The school sentinel program was created by South Dakota lawmakers three years ago, giving districts the opportunity to allow teachers or other school employees to carry a gun on school grounds.
Under the school sentinel policy Tri-Valley’s School board approved Monday night, interested employees would need to be approved by the School Board, undergo firearm training and pass several evaluations before they could have a firearm on school grounds [Bridget Bennett, “Parents Unaware of Tri-Valley’s Vote on School Sentinels,” KSFY-TV, 2016.03.14].
The Tri-Valley school board has a short memory: school staff in Harrisburg didn’t need guns to subdue a teen shooter in their high school last fall. Tri-Valley must also have a forgiving insurance company; one of the big reasons no school district jumped on the school gunslinger policy was that they would more than likely lose their insurance.
The proposed policy, which must still get second reading and final approval at the board’s April meeting, reads as follows:
Individuals interested in becoming a school sentinel (SDCL Chapter 13-64) will first make application with the superintendent by submitting the school sentinel application (Form 1A). The application will be reviewed by the school board during executive session at the next regular school board meeting. The superintendent and board will then either approve or deny proceeding with this request. If either the superintendent or the majority of the school board (at least 3 school board members) do not sign for approval, the application will be considered denied.
If denied, the individual will not be a school sentinel for the Tri-Valley School District. If approved for proceeding in the application and testing process, the individual must then complete all the requirements located in Chapter 13-64 inclusive; such as the law enforcement training course per SDCL 13-64-3. In addition, the individual must complete a psychological evaluation and consent to the sharing and access to these results with the superintendent and school board.
Testing results will be reviewed in executive session before determining final approval or denial of a school sentinel designation for the individual (Form 2B). Final approval will then be contingent upon the signing of acceptance by the superintendent and the majority of the school board (at least 3 school board members).
The costs associated with the school sentinel program such as the law enforcement training program and the psychological evaluation will be a responsibility of the school district if the applicant has an approved Form 1A. This may also include the costs associated for substitutes.
Tri-Valley School Sentinels will remain confidential and these individuals will not be publicly disclosed. The superintendent is authorized by the school board to revoke an individual’s school sentinel designation at any time. It will be the responsibility of the superintendent to inform the board and law enforcement of any changes with personnel regarding the school sentinel program [proposed school gunslinger policy, downloaded from Tri-Valley superintendent Mike Lodmel’s document page, retrieved 2016.03.15].
So a school board, which is elected to govern educational matters, is going to assume the authority to judge tactical skills and empower staff to wield deadly force? Gee, why do the words stupid and hare-brained keep leaping to mind?
The icing on this bad policy is the secrecy clause. Parents will have no right to know which staff are carrying deadly weapons in school. Parents get no check on the board’s decision, no opportunity to say, “Good grief! They let that yahoo carry a gun? I don’t think so!” Parents get no opportunity to pull their children from an armed teacher’s classroom and demand that their children be placed in classrooms where no guns are present.
Guns don’t make us safer. Guns increase the risk of fatal accidents. Tri-Valley is increasing the physical and psychic risk to its students. Parents interested in their children’s safety should attend the April meeting and tell the Tri-Valley school board not to spend their money on this secretive and dangerous foray into John Wayne fantasies.