OTHER VOICES: School-sentinels program misses mark

Farm Forum

As South Dakota gears up to begin training school-sentinels, probably starting in 2014, we’ve learned this past week that no school districts have yet notified the state that they have approved a school sentinel plan. Furthermore, no school districts have yet put forward specific school-sentinel nominees.

In our view, that’s not bad — it might be a good thing if no one at all were interested in taking advantage of the voluntary school sentinel program, which allows for training teachers, other school staffers or volunteers to carry guns in order to improve school safety.

We oppose this new program because our society already has armed personnel who have acquired far more training in the course of their jobs than the school-sentinel program could ever deliver and who stand ready every day to respond to crisis situations. They’re called police officers and sheriff’s deputies, and they’re a phone call away. Also, we have a very good working model locally in how districts can be creative if they feel they need additional security. The Pierre School District has two school resource officers who carry arms and who have training already because they are employees of the Pierre Police Department. The district gets them during the school year, in part because the district contributes a portion of salary costs.

In our view, that kind of cooperation with local law enforcement is a better model for our school districts. School boards would be wise to let law enforcement officers do what they’re trained to do, and let teachers and school staffers do what they’re trained to do. And let’s not even get into the potential problems that could arise from allowing armed volunteers in our schools.

Implementing a school-sentinel program is one more task that will only take school district administrators’ and employees’ time away from the real purpose of our schools, which is the education of our children. That job is tough enough.

— Pierre Capital Journal