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March 18, 2018 10:43 PM

Sentinel Programs In South Dakota

Two South Dakota school districts are taking part in the state Sentinel Program -- which allows teachers or staff members to carry a gun.

But with the national conversation about arming teachers heating up after the Florida school shooting, some state lawmakers say more schools should consider the program. 

Teachers carrying guns. 

"That should be an option states should consider," Secretary of Education Betsy Devos said. 

It's a topic at the national level, after the Florida school shooting. 

"They have to know, if they walk in, they're going to probably end up dead," President Trump said. 

Florida legislators recently decided to allow certain teachers to carry guns in their schools. 

"They passed concealed carry for some very special teachers, that have a great ability with weapons and with guns," President Trump said. 

In South Dakota, the law allows schools to have sentinels. The first district to have one was Tri Valley. That was two years ago. 

Now more than ever, the school is serving as an important resource for other schools considering the option. 

"What I've dealt with the most, is individual schools calling me with questions, maybe relating to insurance, or the training itself," Tri-Valley Superintendent Mike Lodmel said. 

For Tri-Valley, the program has relatively low-cost.

"Yeah, I think in South Dakota the majority of your cost would be that 80 hours of training," Lodmel said.

Tri Valley school district pays for the hotel, training, and meal expenses for the staff member to become a sentinel. 

"The training, I think, I'm trying to remember...it was around $800 give or take," Lodmel said. 

The cost outweighed the risk-- in the eyes of the school board and superintendent, because the district's schools are at least 10 minutes away from first responders. 

In Sioux Falls Schools, it's a different story. 

"I don't think arming teachers in Sioux Falls is necessary at this time. Certainly the program that allows schools, in South Dakota through the sentinel program, has it's place in our outlying communities," Bray said. 

Sioux Falls Risk Management Director Robert Bray says school safety doesn't have a one size fits all solution. 

When I asked him what the cost would look like...

"To arm teachers? Well, geez. That would be just pure speculation... but just think about the ramifications of that," Bray said. 

In a district the size of Sioux Falls, the costs add up. 

Training could take a teacher out of the classroom. 

"There's the cost of that schooling, lodging, per diem, travel, all of those kind of things," Bray said. 

In the largest district in South Dakota-- the solutions aren't simple. 

"In Sioux Falls School District, we've got 35 schools, 37 facilities if you count the IPC...so if you were to arm an individual in all of those buildings, there would be a significant cost," Bray said. 

Bray says it would add up to almost $30,000 for the training alone. 

They may have different safety plans, but both districts agree--with the right to choose. 

"I don't think that a school sentinel program...I don't think there is a broad stroke. I'm not one of those people who think all teachers should be carrying firearms, or it absolutely should not be allowed," Lodmel said. 

The Sioux Falls School District says they're currently trying to advocate for students and parents to "see something" and "say something" if they notice a child who may be in need of mental health help. 


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