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Bill mandates crime alerts to schools

SB 3 illustration
Senator Tim Reed

This summer South Dakota legislators studied problems in juvenile justice. One conclusion the panel came to is that troubled kids would benefit from a community team approach that includes law enforcement and schools.

A bill that would mandate that communication is now working its way through the 2023 legislative session and passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Currently, law enforcement agencies have the option of alerting school officials if a student is suspected of violating state laws involving drugs, alcohol, or threats of violence.

Senate Bill 3 makes that notification mandatory.

Rob Munson is the executive director for School Administrators of South Dakota. He testified before the Senate Education committee that students who are apprehended, often for serious crimes, can currently return to class without notification to the school.

Munson said as a result, an offender could be in the same classroom as a victim, and school officials don’t have the opportunity to assess the offender’s threat.

“If they made the choice to say this student may endanger our school district or our staff and students, they could move to do a suspension and possibly a longer-term expulsion if it were that serious of an event,” Munson said.

Testifying against the bill were law enforcement organizations, including sheriffs, police chiefs, and state’s attorneys.

Dick Tieszen is a lobbyist for the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association.

He said Senate Bill 3 might result in violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that gives parents control over their children’s educational records.

Tieszen said the bill leaves open questions: “What’s being reported? Is it confidential? Who’s the superintendent giving that information to?”

State Senator Tim Reed supports the bill. He is a member of the Senate Education Committee and served on the interim study committee on Juvenile Justice, and he said putting more kids in jail was never a recommendation.

“What was a theme was wrapping services around these kids who could be going down the wrong path,” he said. “And that included law enforcement. Law enforcement would be a part of that. The schools, the state’s attorneys’ offices, counseling.”

Reed and three other senators voted to pass the bill, with two voting no and one excused. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007.
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