School Safety Plans: From Armed “Sentinels” To Spotting Mental Ills Earlier


South Dakota legislators have approved a plan for “school sentinels” — teachers, administrators, security guards, or community volunteers who would carry guns to protect their schools. Stateline reports that South Dakota is among several states considering new school safety laws after the Newtown school shootings. Kathy Christie of the Education Commission on the States says a new trend in school security strategy puts greater emphasis on training teachers to spot mental health problems in students and refer them for help.

Allowing teachers and other school staff to be armed has proved more divisive. In just under a third of the nation's schools, guns do have a place, at least some of the time. Those numbers could increase under the president's proposal, but it could be expensive. Mo Canady of the National Association of School Resource Officers estimates that each resource officer costs $50,000 to $80,000. Francisco Negrón, General Counsel for the National School Board Association, says arming teachers could open up schools to liability in the case of an accident. “A teacher has qualified immunity in performing his or her duties,” he says, “but are his or her duties to carry a gun?”

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