South Dakota Now Permits Teachers To Carry Guns In Classroom

On Friday, South Dakota become the first state to enact legislation, in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, explicitly authorizing teachers and staff in K-12 schools to carry firearms. The measure “leaves it up to school districts to decide whether to allow armed teachers” and requires those who wish to carry guns to “undergo training similar to what law enforcement officers receive.”

Still, the approach, championed by the National Rifle Association as a means to protect students in mass shootings, was widely opposed by school administrators and teachers themselves, who said the legislature missed an opportunity to engage in a broader discussion about gun violence and prevention. The educators don’t expect too many districts to take advantage of the new option:

Educators interviewed earlier this week remained unconvinced the legislation is needed.

Don Kirkegaard, superintendent of the Meade School District, said he has never been in favor of the bill and would have preferred a summer study session on school safety.

We should be looking at the big picture and that may be part of the big picture, but it’s not something I’m going to promote,” he said.

Kirkegaard said a study session would have allowed educators to explore everything from facility designs to fire safety, all of which play a key role in safety. Such a session would have brought together “all of the players” for a more comprehensive safety plan, he said.

“I just wish … everybody would have talked a little bit together before we started passing legislation,” he said. “I don’t believe there will be very many districts, at least to begin with, who are going to jump at putting sentinels in a school until they’ve done a lot of research.”

South Dakota is not alone in allowing teachers to bring guns into the classroom. Utah permits concealed carry in public schools and several school districts in Texas also allow firearms in the classroom. In the months following the Newtown tragedy, “legislatures in other states, including Georgia, New Hampshire and Kansas, are working on measures similar to South Dakota’s.”