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Senate education committee rejects school safety bill

PIERRE, S.D. – An effort to place an armed security officer in every South Dakota public school failed to clear its first legislative hurdle Thursday.

Sen. Brent Hoffman’s bill, which would have required a school resource officer or a sentinel for on-site security at every public school in the state, was dismissed by the senate’s education committee.

Hoffman began writing the legislation after a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee last year left seven dead.

“We can do better, and we must do better,” Hoffman said, emphasizing the need for preparedness in the face of unpredictable threats.

Hoffman’s three-pronged approach included tighter control over entry points, a state-operated tip line for school shooting threats, and a mandatory armed presence.

The Sioux Falls Republican says he spent about 90 to 100 hours meeting with school and law enforcement officials on the bill. But lobbyists representing the public education sector cited concerns about the costs. Projections ranged from anywhere between two to 18 million dollars.

“The cost is prohibitive,” said education lobbyist Diana Miller. “If we are going to spend this much money let’s do something on mental health.”

Five of the committee’s seven members voted to reject the bill. Critics suggested sending the legislation to the Senate Appropriations committee for further debate on fiscal impact.

Despite the setback, both supporters and opponents expressed renewed commitments to enhancing school security.

Hoffman, however, remained skeptical, telling the South Dakota Broadcasters Association that “This state, like others, likely won’t take action until after we see a tragedy here. Which is wrong.”

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