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Liability and financial concerns sink school safety bill


A bill promoting new school safety regulations was rejected by the Senate education committee.

The proposal would have codified what primary sponsor Sen. Brent Hoffman described as ‘best practices.’ That includes requirements for school resource officers or ‘sentinel’ employees, locked door policies and an anonymous tipline for students.

It’s a topic Hoffman said he researched extensively in the legislative offseason.

“We can do better - we must do better," Hoffman said. "Some schools have a much better posture than others. Particularly, our more urban schools that are better resourced and better prepared. Some have a very robust program, some don’t view it as a threat and take it as seriously as others, frankly, but there’s a wide range of results that you see among that population sample that we took.”

Opposition largely focused on the expense and burden placed on school districts. While Associated School Boards of South Dakota executive director Doug Wermedal commended Hoffman’s effort, he said there were too many hurdles.

“The standard that the bill appears to call for is almost omniscience versus vigilance, and that’s difficult to achieve," Wermedal said. "By putting it into statute, you create the liability for the state, for the law enforcement officers who would be partners in this, and certainly for the schools. The bill does address this later on, but it does not give schools immunity the way it gives law enforcement officials.”

Additionally, representatives for the state Education Association, the Sioux Falls School District, the Large School Group, and the Bureau of Finance and Management spoke in opposition to the bill.

The committee defeated the bill in a 5-2 vote Thursday.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture