(NORTH SIOUX CITY, SD) - Armed teachers and volunteers in South Dakota schools could be a reality. A new law that starts July 1 lets school boards choose to allow employees, hired security officers or volunteers to carry a gun in school.
Dakota Valley's principal said he doesn't plan on letting anyone carry a gun. However, students and one teacher say this new law is a good thing. "It's for safety and I kind of like the idea," said Nick Buckley, a Dakota Valley senior. One day, Dakota Valley High Schoolers could be sitting in school with an armed teacher or volunteer. "I would feel a lot safer knowing someone in the building could protect us if an intruder were to enter the building," said senior Monica Peacock. That is not the case at Dakota Valley. While the school hasn't made a decision yet, Principal Jerry Rasmussen disagrees with the new law. "We have so much law enforcement that is readily available and highly trained. Their experts at it and I would rather rely on them," said Rasmussen. On the other hand, some students think guns would make their school safer. "God forbid something were to happen, if we had an armed teacher, we'd be able to prevent a like massacre of students," said Buckley. "I agree with the bill because I think if I could prevent even one student from being killed with an intruder that I would be willing to do that by being armed with a gun after being trained of course," said Dakota Valley teacher Anna Michaelson. That's what the law requires. Anyone who is armed must go through firearms training similar to law enforcement.
Nevertheless, Principal Rasmussen pointed to statistics out of New York City where police officers are only 28 percent accurate when they fire their weapon in the line of duty. "I'm worried about the liability that we may have as the training may not be enough to make us accurate. I'm just worried about innocent students getting shot in such a situation," said Rasmussen. "I would be comfortable after training, after being approved by a police officer, being armed, protect my students. I mean they're my kids. I would want to protect them if I could," said Michaelson. One major concern is where to keep the gun. Michaelson believes a locked drawer may not be safe enough. "Kids are resourceful and they could get access to any area of your room, which is I think if we're going to do that, that it needs to be holstered on the teacher," said Michaelson. "If somebody entered the building you would need it right there, but at the same time it would be intimidating as a student to know there's a gun in your classroom," said Peacock. For now, it's a discussion that will happen district by district as school boards decide whether to allow armed teachers in the classroom.
Principal Rasmussen and student Nick Buckley both pointed out the issue of mental health. They believe dealing with that concern would be a more proactive way to prevent gun violence.