It’s the law. Teachers in South Dakota can carry guns in the classroom.
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the bill today.
Other states have gun laws that could make it possible for teachers to carry arms, but the South Dakota law is apparently the first to directly allow it.
The law does not force teachers to carry guns, and it does not require school districts to arm teachers.
The South Dakota law also does not specify that guns carried by teachers must be concealed, but it does require a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Similar bills introduced in about two dozen states since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newton, Conn., have stalled.
Supporters of the South Dakota law say it is particularly important in a rural state where emergency responders may be many miles away from schools.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, says rural districts do not have the money to hire full-time law officers, so they want to arm teachers or volunteers.
Several representatives of school boards, school administrators and teachers opposed the bill in committee testimony last month. They said the measure could make schools more dangerous, lead to accidental shootings and put guns in the hands of people who are not adequately trained to shoot in emergency situations.
The law, however, requires training of what it calls “school sentinels.”
Section 3 of the law reads: “Any person who acts as a school sentinel, pursuant to section 1 of this Act, shall first successfully complete a school sentinel training course as defined by the Law Enforcement Officers Standards Commission pursuant to subdivision 23-3-35(16).”
The law says any school board that wishes to establish a sentinel program must “obtain the approval of the law enforcement official who has jurisdiction over the school premises. Any material changes in the school sentinel program’s personnel or protocols shall be reported to all law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the school premises forthwith.”
The law does not allow anyone but a trained sentinel to carry a gun on school grounds.
Other states considering bills to allow teachers to carry weapons are Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee. Texas already has a provision that is used to allow teachers to carry firearms to work, if the principal approves it.
NBC did a study of firearms and education laws in all 50 states and found that 18 allow adults to have a loaded gun on school grounds, usually as long as they have written permission.
The study claims: “More than a third of the states already allow teachers and other adults to carry guns to school. In most cases, all you need is the equivalent of a note from the principal – you usually don’t even need law enforcement approval.”
On the other hand, a survey by the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence shows why so many states are considering laws to allow armed teachers.
The survey says: “Forty-two states and the District of Columbia prohibit even those holding concealed-weapons permits or licenses from bringing guns onto school grounds.”