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Slimmed down school safety bill passed out of committee

(South Dakota Broadcasters Association) South Dakota State Senators want basic requirements in place to assure the safety of public school children.

Lawmakers on the Senate’s Education Committee unanimously advanced a bill Tuesday morning by Sen. Brent Hoffman that would require school’s in the state to keep entrances to on-campus buildings locked during the day, or if they weren’t locked – watch them.

The bill would also require schools to publicize an anonymous school safety tip line – currently run by the state’s Department of Public Safety.

“(This) standardizes policies statewide as it relates to accessing public schools,” Hoffman told committee members. “It basically says that if a door is unlocked during regular hours, with students present, an employee must be present.” (:48)

Hoffman crafted the bill based on feedback he had received from school employees, fellow lawmakers, and other stakeholders from a separate, more extensive school safety bill that he brought earlier this session. That bill was defeated by the same committee just over two weeks ago.

Opposition testimony came solely from lobbyists representing entities associated with the state’s public schools. They argued in part that requiring surveillance strained staffing resources even further, and such policies were already in place in nearly all districts in the state.

“A bad actor determined to do evil will not necessarily come through a locked door,” said Dr. Doug Wermedel, Executive Director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. “If they do enter via regular entrance, their bad intentions may not be noticed by any sort of monitor until it emerges.” (6:00)

But those arguments failed to sway even one member of the committee – as all would go onto vote unanimously to pass the bill to the full Senate for further debate and consideration.

“I’m not feeling the opposition to this right now,” said. Sen. Steve Kolbeck. “We have standards like this for other things, like fire protection, AEDs… We set a minimum qualification of what we should do. I think that this bill is a good minimum qualification.” (35:06)

It will be slated for consideration on the Senate floor Wednesday.

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