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By Chris B.

In December of 2012 I graduated with a degree in Social Science Education from a South Dakota university, one day after the massacre at Sandy Hook. Three months later, South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard signed into law HB1087 (more commonly referred to as the Sentinel Bill), which would provide for armed faculty and staff inside public schools. As an aspiring educator and concealed permit holder, the passage of this bill excited me. It would finally allow me and other defense-minded teachers to carry a firearm in the classroom, providing a safe and secure environment for students to learn. But it is not that simple . . .

The Sentinel Bill has several key components that provide for the appropriate and responsible placement of armed sentinels within a school’s premises.  The language in the bill was wisely chosen and concisely demonstrates the goals of the program.  The entire bill can be read here, but I will cover the major points:

  • The school board must approve whether they wish to have a sentinel program in their district.  It was not a mandate laid down by the state of South Dakota. (In the same regard, teachers or staff would not be forced to participate in the program; it is completely voluntary).
  • The school board must obtain permission from the county sheriff who has jurisdiction over the school district.  The sheriff’s department must also approve of the sentinel program set up by the district and provide adequate training for the individuals choosing to be armed.
  • Each individual choosing to be involved in the program must meet the requirements for a South Dakota Concealed Carry Permit. (Which is incredibly easy to obtain, and any person that passes the FBI background check required to teach in South Dakota will have no trouble passing the background check for a CCP).

The Sentinel Program set up by each school district would complement and enhance the lock down and intruder procedures already in place.  It would allow the staff to decidedly amend the conditions of a confrontation with an armed intruder or intruders.  Students would be in a safer situation should the worst arise.

Although student safety has been a hot topic of political discussion over the past six months, most do not truly understand how truly crucial it is to the learning process.  Speaking as an educator, making sure that a student is in a safe and protected environment is paramount in in order for students to learn the material and better themselves individually.

One of the major aspects of modern educational psychology is the work of Dr. Abraham Maslow.  He proposed that humans must fulfill their physiological needs before their psychological needs can be met.  From this point they can improve themselves and achieve what he called self-actualization.  These needs are organized into what is termed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

This perfectly translates to the necessities of a student within a school.  A teacher must address these needs as they take on the responsibility of running a classroom. At the base are the simplest of human actions required to live – breathing, food, water, and homeostasis.  Every student should have these once they enter your classroom.  If not, a teacher would provide food or water.

Once these are established, the teacher must provide a safe and healthy environment for each student’s physical body.  If a student does not feel safe, they will not be able to move up the pyramid and acquire the next needs, which include friendship, family, love, self-esteem, confidence, problem solving, creativity, and morality. These higher-level aspects of the pyramid are the skills and character traits that are obtained by students in a safe and loving classroom – the type of classroom that allows them to move seamlessly through these categories and move on to become humane and well-adjusted adults.

I wish to provide an additional amount of safety to my classroom by carrying a concealed pistol inside my waistband at 4 o’clock with an extra mag at 8 o’clock.  I am also 6’ 5’’, well built, and who would fight any intruder wishing to harm my students.  I would fight to the death with my bare hands to protect them, as would any teacher worth his or her salt.  But a concealed firearm would give me an advantage that the intruder would not expect.

Since the passage HB1087 their has been a lull in the political discussion in South Dakota over guns in school.  The bill was originally introduced in January (with one of the main sponsors being a representative from my district), and there was quite a bit of debate up until its signage, and then a sudden drop off.  It’s as if after the bill was signed people assumed the argument was over, and all school boards would implement their own sentinel program without question.

But that did not happen.

From the other educators I’ve talked to, there is not widespread support within school systems to allow teachers to carry firearms in schools.  The overlap of firearms enthusiasts who wish to see teachers carrying concealed in the classroom and teachers willing to do so is very narrow.  I fit into that demographic, as does my wife and several other teachers I know, but the majority of teachers, administrators, school board members, and mostly importantly parents, do not want it to happen.

The parents fear that the worst will happen. They think that a teacher will accidentally shoot a student in the middle of a lecture (because as we all know, holstered firearms just go off for no reason).  These people want their children to be protected, but are afraid to allow competently trained teachers the means to protect them.  An administrator I talked to recently, who appeared to be fairly neutral on the topic, was worried about the liability that would fall onto the school district once firearms are allowed into the classroom.  While this is a fair concern, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks in under these circumstances.

It’s not as if firearms are foreign to the individuals opposed.  Firearms are a huge part of South Dakota’s culture.  The state sports some of the best hunting in the nation –  particularly pheasant hunting in the middle of October – and shooting culture in general is very healthy.  I do not wish to generalize the great state of South Dakota.  There are obviously outliers in every community and culture, and South Dakota is no exception.  I know many people who think guns are evil and simply abhor the idea of a firearm entering school property in the possession of anyone but a police officer.

I think their apprehension stems from a fear of the unknown.  They may not know the teacher.  They may not know how their children are protected.  They may not understand the facets of the Sentinel Program.  They most certainly do not understand firearms.  The key to fixing this is, of course, education.  Advocates for the Sentinel Program must inform their friends, neighbors, and coworkers of the logic behind it.  We must give a new face to the gun culture and demonstrate that we are not all gun-toting imbeciles that the media tries to portray.  We must show that allowing teachers to carry a firearm within the school would only be beneficial for the safety of the students.

I understand how unlikely it is that I will ever need to use my pistol in a defensive situation, especially in a school.  In my 4 years of carrying a concealed firearm I have not once had to remove my firearm from its holster and draw down on someone.  I never want to.  Ever.  But should the situation arise in which my life or the lives of my students are in jeopardy, I want to be prepared to protect them to the best of my ability.  I take the responsibility of providing a safe and loving classroom very seriously.  It is a burden that every teacher will encounter, but few will take to heart.

I was recently hired to teach at a semi-rural school in South Dakota for the 2013-2014 school year.  While this specific school district did not enact a Sentinel Program for this year, I have hopes for the future.  The community is deeply rooted in the culture of firearms and modern shooting sports. It is also a community strongly in support of its school.  My hope is that one day these two ideas converge, giving myself and other willing educators the opportunity to protect our students to the highest of our ability.

I have not even met my students yet, but I can tell you that I will show each of them as much love and kindness as I can.  Even without a firearm with me, I will give them a learning environment that is a sanctuary from anything or anyone who might wish to harm them.  And they will learn because they are safe and loved.

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  1. The law seems to be a political flim-flam, with more holes than the backstop at your average shooting range. Which is not surprising from Daugaard, the same gerbil who vetoed Constitutional Carry.

  2. ” I know many people who think guns are evil and simply abhor the idea of a firearm entering school property in the possession of anyone but a police officer.”

    I have trouble understanding this sentiment. What makes cops any more capable to carry a firearm than another citizen? People who want to buy a gun have to pass a background check. In many states you are also required to undergo a more stringent background check to receive your CHL, as well as being fingerprinted and obtaining the signature of a chief law enforcement officer. I suppose maybe people do not know/understand the scrutiny that people go through to get their CHL, or perhaps they just see cops having guns as a necessary evil…I sat here trying to come up with a rational reason why you would think cops are somehow above scrutiny to carry guns anywhere they please but the rest of us are “too dangerous”. What a farce.

    • Its NIMBY rearing its head again. Sure, every OTHER school in the country should have armed teachers and staff-but NOT AROUND MY KID…….

    • Hoplophobia: an irrational fear of guns.

      Do not expect rational reasoning by people suffering from an irrational fear.

    • I totally agree with your comment on cops not being any more gun capable than the rest of us. I spent 2 decades in Special Ops and had numerous training events with law enforcement. I found that most “cops” lack even reasonable skill with a firearm. The majority of their training consists of shooting stationary paper targets, or simulators. Most kids raised in the country have more skill, knowledge of weapons, and ability than law enforcement. Ever wonder why so many cops show up at a violent incident?, they need all the firepower they can get to stop the perp.

    • “What makes cops any more capable to carry a firearm than another citizen?”

      They’re Professionals!

    • It’s a common misconception that half a year of rigorous training in a police academy makes one more suited to carry a weapon.

      It makes one more suited to be a cop, but weapons skill isn’t a big part of the training process.

      Unfortunately, there is this pervasive belief that people in a profession are invariably more knowledgable about their tools than are others.

      With guns, this leads to excessive belief in police and the military – along with a lessening of respect for the skills of Joe the Teacher.

  3. ” They may not know the teacher. They may not know how their children are protected.’

    1. GET TO KNOW your child’s teacher(s). It seems astonishing to have to say this.

    2. Your children are protected by TEACHERS WITH FIREARMS; hence the act. It’s simple. Get used to it. It is now a reality in (some, at least) SD schools. If it is feasible, seek out schools with armed teachers. Perhaps an new law is needed (I nearly gagged at writing “new law”, but there it is) that enables parents to choose other schools with armed teachers. This should be encouraged.

    Congratulations to South Dakota. Well done! However, there’s more work to be done. (I nearly gagged at writing the word “work”!)

    I’m lazy; deal with it.

    • South Dakota is, I believe, an open enrollment state.

      However, the right to enroll your kids anywhere there’s room doesn’t mean that there’ll be an armed school within a practical distance of your home.

  4. Chris You are obviously sincerely believe that pyramid of safety nonsense. You need an epiphany and realize how fully the educrate industry has worked you over with their institutionalize “progressive”/marxist nonsense. Too many eggheads, too much state money, too little useful to do = new theories of BS.

    Your job starts with the kiddies crossing the school border and is to educate them. Yes physically protect them but not to indoctrinate them, feed them, or be their buddy. And none of this is in the purvue of Barak/Michelle Obma.

    ++ to SD for allowing the local School Board local control . The County Sheriff allowed a vote??

    • Cut the guy some slack, dude. Educational techniques change over time. Or do you believe that teachers should still be hitting southpaws with rulers ’til they learn to write with the “correct” hand?

      He’s saying that kids won’t learn as well if they are scared, hungry, thirsty et cetera, and he’s right. A water cooler in a well disciplined schoolroom is no bad thing.

      He’s also expressing the belief that if he comes across as an adversary or at best someone who doesn’t give a sh¡t, the kids will be less likely to listen to or trust him, let alone to ask for help.

      Not all schooling is so ugly and cheerless as you seem to think it shoud be, and for that I am grateful.

      • I went to kindergarten and elementary school starting in 1974. The comment on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs amuses me. I may well have had shelter but food and water were certainly NOT priorities until the proper break times. (Much less air conditioning.)

        Despite that I seem to have survived. A bit cynical perhaps, but still kicking nonetheless.

        My other main observation regarding the Sentinel Act is that, while obviously well-intended, is as misplaced and ineffective as all the usual legislative initiatives to come down the pike, regardless of state.

        Simply put, I believe that any teacher, at any school, regardless of level, should be able to carry a concealed sidearm, at any time and place, so long as they have that state’s concealed carry permit. This to be without fear of penalty or political retribution from any administrator or politician. No more, no less.

        That is all.

  5. I wish to provide an additional amount of safety to my classroom by carrying a concealed pistol

    Apparently some insurance companies have threatened to drop a school’s coverage if teachers or staff are armed.

    • Then they should be more liable, criminaly, if and when a shooting occurs.

      Same goes for the school board, or the sherriff. Guaranteed then they will change their tune in a hurry.

      When they wrote our CC & Castle doctrine laws in WI they inacted a liability clause for businesses that post “No-gun” signs. By doing so they are stating their willingness to be responsible for the well being of its customers.

      I fail to see the difference between the business of anything vs the business schools.

      The issue is really budgets and element of surprise that give these types of scenarios validity vs posted guards or officers.

      • Exactly!

        When a school (or business) has a “No Guns” then fails to provide read, tangible, active security in it’s place they should be held liable (both civil and criminal) for the consequences.

        Hoplophobia is not a security plan.

      • +1
        If a property owner wishes to exercise that much control over those who enter, they have assumed the burden of assuring their safety. Any CCW holder disarmed by the policy of a business, and injured because of that policy, should wind up as the new owner of that business.

  6. “I know many people who think guns are evil and simply abhor the idea of a firearm entering school property in the possession of anyone but a police officer.”

    Mayhap a sherif who approves of Sentinel would be willing to deputize any school staff who wish to carry…?

  7. I abhor the idea of a teacher or school administrator having a weapon to protect my defenseless child, when obviously being defenseless to protect my defenseless child is so much better.

  8. Where I live, school carry is legal for about twenty years and while I have no idea how many teachers actually carry I do know we’ve never had a teacher snap and start shooting his/her pupils.

    Sure, some teachers are nervous about weapons in schools, be it guns, knives, pepper spray or whatever. Some of the kids are nervous too at first. But I’ve had more students tell me “Can you bring that rifle to school? We’d like to take a look.” than I’ve had them telling me “Weapons don’t belong in school. Good and sensible people should have no need for them.” And I’m a city boy, we’re not some rural area, so even an argument about South Dakota being sparsely populated would be moot.

        • Feel free to do so, but…
          …I’m afraid I can’t offer more than moral support. It should be kind of obvious, based on what I wrote, that I don’t live in the US.

          I live in central Europe, so while you *can* use us as an example, the situation here is quite different than in the US and you have to bear that in mind.

  9. I think the number one inhibitor to armed school security is CYA. That is also the reason for all the other retarded “zero tolerance” policies that are imposed in schools these days. “If little Jimmy points and makes gun sounds, we have to do something!” Why? Because if they don’t do anything and then little Jimmy brings a real gun back later and actually shoots someone, the retarded parents will sue claiming that had the school addressed the finger pointing, this would not have happened. Zero tolerance policies are just insurance policies for cowardly teachers and administrators. It is the same problem with armed teachers. If one of the teachers has a ND, the school and district (if not the state too) are sure to get sued because their policies “allowed” it to happen. CYA leadership is the source of 80% of our bad laws in this country.

  10. I appreciate your point of view as a teacher. It’s good to know there are some good people in there.

    The Ohio (my state) Attorney General was making talk of arming administrators and teachers, but I don’t think it went anywhere. None of the schools around here have anything. I think it boils down to good guys being armed to stop the bad guys.

  11. I’m still around 20 pages behind, but, h.s., give away that FNS already!

    I just read 10 pages about the FNS giveaway. Enough!


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