Press "Enter" to skip to content

South Dakota Legislature Not So Keen on Local Control

Last updated on 2016.10.13

House Bill 1087, the school gunslinger bill, awaits its date with Senate State Affairs. When the committee takes up this dangerous, fear-based proposal to arm teachers, janitors, and volunteers against the miniscule threat of school shootings, we will surely hear its backers cloak their guns-everywhere agenda in their familiar "local control" talking point.

So I got to wondering: how's the Legislature doing on local control so far on other proposals?

  • Senate Bill 41 shifts responsibility for school bus inspections from Highway Patrol staff to inspectors picked by the school and approved by the HP. But the Legislature still requires all schools to submit to state bus safety standards. Not much local control there. The bill awaits House approval.
  • Senate Bill 119 takes away local school district's authority to restrict media access to school sports events based on exclusive broadcast contracts. I'm cool with that, but the bill sets a statewide rule, reducing local control. The Senate has approved SB 119; it awaits House action.
  • Senate Bill 138 imposes new data-reporting requirements on all school districts. Senate Education passed this bill unanimously.
  • Senate Bill 187 would have allowed school districts to deny teachers the due process right of continuing contract. Senate Education wisely, if narrowly, defeated SB 187 and maintained the state mandate of this basic labor protection.
  • Control is really about money. More money means more ability to do what you want to do. House State Affairs has killed two bills, House Bill 1201 and House Bill 1202, that would have restored some of the policy-making dollar power the Governor and Legislature have taken away from schools in recent years.
  • Senate Bill 98 would have watered down the immunization requirement to enroll in public school. Senate Health and Human Services chose sensible public health policy over John Birch paranoia and killed this bill early. The Legislature thus endorses the idea of mandating every school district to follow statewide immunization requirements to protect the health of children.
  • Senate Bill 216 tells school districts they can no longer develop their own driver education curriculum. Instead, they must teach a standardized curriculum created by the state Department of Public Safety. The Senate loved this bill.
  • On a higher level, Senate Bill 148 would have restored the state's authority to permit and regulate in-situ uranium leach mining. Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources killed this good bill, saying they would prefer that responsibility for this important environmental oversight rest solely with the federal government. That reduces the ability of local residents to influence decisions by denying them the chance to direct their concerns to closer state officials.

There you have nine bills demonstrating the Legislature's lack of any sense of commitment to local control as a guiding principle in legislation. So when backers of the school gunslinger bill say HB 1087 is all about local control, call their bluff, and ask what their real agenda is.


  1. larry kurtz 2013.02.09

    Would someone go remind all of PP's multiple anonymous personalities that nepotism is a gift from his god ala the Roundses, the Novstrups, the Haggars, etc, ad nauseum?

  2. bret clanton 2013.02.09

    Sotuh? keystroke? satire?

    [CAH: No, Bret, just continued infelicity in typing on a tablet. Correction made, and my apologies for shoddy work!]

  3. PNR 2013.02.09

    Lack of fidelity to a principle does not invalidate the principle.

  4. Donald Pay 2013.02.09

    One person's "principle" is another person's myth. When principles become myths are they really principles? It really just comes down to what excuse you want to provide for why you are doing or not doing something that might affect the power elite that fund state politicians.

    I always found that "local control" was a "principle" people used to justify whatever side of the issue they happened to be on. So, the Republican Party justified not supporting strong state regulations on CAFOs by insisting on "local control" through zoning and other means. Yet, when local people started beating the CAFOs, then it was time to start fixing it at the state level to make sure "local control" was as ineffective as possible.

    "Local control" is just a buzz word that most people will swallow. It's not a principle.

  5. PNR 2013.02.09

    D. P. - the reason a principle is adduced as the basis of a policy also doesn't invalidate the principle.

    If it us true that effective organizations push decisions to the lowest possible level, then it is simply true, regardless of the cynicism, inconsistency, or hypocrisy of those currently using that principle to advance a particular agenda. We might disagree on which "level" is the lowest possible - or, to put it another way, how local is "local" with respect to a given policy question - but the principle holds.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.10

    PNR, our Legislature obviously does not feel the principle of local control holds. That may not invalidate the legislation they justify with their occasional and inconsistent appeals to said principle, but how about we clear away the rhetorical underbrush (i.e., the excuses Donald catches us in) and focus on what's really motivating the bill?

  7. PNR 2013.02.10

    It's clear what's motivating it- the same thing that is motivating the stricter control folks: fear

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.10

    And that's fine. Let's talk about the fears on both sides. Let's talk about how the fear on the pro-HB 1087 side is based on media-hyped miscalculation of the risk of school shootings, and how the fear on the con side is based on a realistic assessment of the dangers of introducing more firearms into schools on a daily basis... plus the fear those guns will instill in our children and the messages those guns will send that undermine the lessons we try to teach about non-violent conflict resolution and the strength of civil society.

  9. PNR 2013.02.10

    It's always easy to say my fears are realistic and yours aren't.

    Personally I think both sets of fears are not. The bill will not result in teacher-vigilantes, nor will guns themselves, absent the overreaction of some adult(s), instill fear in children. But the threat of maniacal mass murderers is also quite low and most school districts will decline the option even if given.

    As to non violent conflict resolution, it is also good to teach its limitations and that there are times when violence can only be stopped with violence. There's a very good reason for armed police, and for self arming. Some bullies only learn through pain. We must learn to recognize those (few) instances and be prepared to act if needed.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.10

    Sure, non-violence has limits. Gandhi and ML King both preached it; both were shot dead. But they faced that risk throughout their lives and did not carry guns. That's a powerful moral example, one that we dilute by surrounding kids with gunslingers who undermine their faith (and my lessons) in civil society.

    I'm talking about something deeper than fear. I'm talking about the moral impacts that stick after the initial shock of realizing the teacher's got a gun. I'm talking about what LK aptly mentioned back in December: abandoning civil society and descending voluntarily into paranoia. Telling kids they must live in a constant state of readiness to use deadly force does more harm than good.

  11. PNR 2013.02.11

    But I can't say I would have thought there was anything morally significant in my teacher having a gun, or the teacher of my children having a gun. Mere possession of a tool does not imply a specific moral purpose for that tool in any individual.

    Most teachers have an internet connection, too - and in recent years those have been used to harm children (a recent case in which a teacher is accused of filming/photographing child porn at school comes to mind), but we don't speak of banning digital cameras and computers with internet connections at school. Yet the harm done by such acts can be every bit as permanent as that done by a bullet. The same might be said with the "tool" of pedagogical authority, a tool which has also been abused in large and small ways throughout the history of education at all levels to the great harm of victims.

    But on the whole, I trust teachers with all these tools - the computer, the authority, and the gun - as well as the pocket knife, the hammer, the screwdriver, and the car. I recognize the impossibility of guaranteeing that all teachers will be moral in the use of these tools, but with adequate safeguards, screening, and accountability, all can be used by teachers with reasonable safety. There is also something to be said about the moral pedagogical impact of modeling moral use of these tools, including guns.

    I also trust local school boards to decide with reasonable competence in these matters.

    But if you don't trust teachers or school boards - and being in the profession, perhaps you have better reason than I for not doing so (I know I don't always trust preachers as much as the laity seem to do) - then perhaps your fears are rational.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.11

    "mere possession of a tool does not imply a specific moral purpose"... so if I carry a dildo in school, that tool also sends no value message?

    A screwdriver has moral import. It says, "I am ready to fix things." A gun is not a screwdriver. A gun is an implement of deadly force. It says , "I am ready to kill people."

    I have a screwdriver in my desk.

    You're cribbing Hickey's talking point on "not trusting" teachers and school boards. As a teacher, I have every right to say that my colleagues and our bosses should not do certain things in schools without any implication that I lack trust in them. But your own comment suggests that any imputed mistrust is not a moral ding against me but simply a healthy (Christian?!) recognition of the fallibility of all humanity. I trust my colleagues, but we can all make mistakes. Why up the cost of those mistakes by allowing guns into our classrooms?

  13. PNR 2013.02.11

    I can conceive valid uses for a dildo in a class that would have no negative moral implications. With proper screening, safeguards, and accountability, it would not unduly alarm me.

    This- proper screening, safeguards, and accountability- are why a police officer with his gun in a school also doesn't unduly alarm me or anyone else.

    The question then hinges on 2 points: (1) are proper screening, safeguards, and accountability possible and if so, what would those be; and (2) does the actual threat (or need, in the case of tools other than guns) justify the hassle and expense of those screens, safeguards, and structures of accountability.

    I would say the answer to the first is yes, and we can trust local school boards with the details; and the answer to the second is no in the overwhelming number of districts in South Dakota. And I trust those district boards to have enough sense to see that.

  14. larry kurtz 2013.02.11

    With the release of DSM-V at least 50% of Americans will not be fit to buy a firearm let alone carry one in a school: it is yet to be determined how many of those actually wish to be an embedded school shooter.

  15. larry kurtz 2013.02.11

    Again, this issue should be in the hands of county sheriffs and not up to some yacho school district in bum steer South Dakota.

  16. PNR 2013.02.11

    LK - which would cause me to question seriously the objectivity of DSM-V.

  17. larry kurtz 2013.02.11

    yet you believe that a jew born some 2000 years ago is a god? should disqualify you, too.

  18. LK 2013.02.11


    Just a reminder--larry kurtz and LK ain't one in the same. I haven't met kurtz but he's apparently far better looking than I am

  19. Steve Sibson 2013.02.11

    "abandoning civil society and descending voluntarily into paranoia"

    So why are you so paranoid about guns?

  20. larry kurtz 2013.02.11

    LK is the sensible, respectful one, kurtz swings a studded club. Sibby? Right-field on one of the moons of Uranus.

  21. PNR 2013.02.11

    Sorry. Knew that-habit of just using initials when specifying responses.

    Larry K. - not sure why believing a Jew born ca. 4B.C. is also eternal God would disqualify me from owning a gun.

    Neither Judaism nor Christianity have ever been pacifist. Although I could see the leftists devising the DSM defining such belief as a mental illness.

  22. Steve Sibson 2013.02.11

    "Neither Judaism nor Christianity have ever been pacifist."

    At least one of Jesus' disciples was carrying a sword when the arrest happened.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.11

    PNR, I want your response about dildoes having use in a classroom on your blog header. Or on your resume. Or anywhere the next time we discuss sex education. Aren't you kind of painting yourself into an absurd corner just to preserve your point about guns as value-free tools? Should I have suggested a vibrator for the comparison instead? (And if I keep this up, does Google flag my blog as "adult"?)

    Reality check: I'm not even sure I can say "dildo" in my classroom, let alone bring one in, and not catch justifiable hell from someone. Both tools in this comparison carry a clear moral weight and send a clear message about what students ought to believe about their school and about civil society. As David Frum via LK points out, guns both symbolize and push us toward primitivism and barbarism.

    (I've seen both LK and larry kurtz. Very different men... but both handsome enough to win the ladies.)

  24. Jana 2013.02.11

    Sibby makes a point. "At least one of Jesus' disciples was carrying a sword when the arrest happened."

    How'd that work out?

    What was the saying back then? "All it takes to stop a bad person with a sword is a good person with a sword."

    If only Jesus would have had a big sword...or maybe two.

    Oh that's right...Peter cut off one of the soldier's ears and then Jesus told him to stop and then miraculously healed the wounded man's ear.

    Guess that was before the right wing created 'Rambo' Jesus in their image.

  25. PNR 2013.02.12

    "with proper screening, safeguards, and accountability"

    That is the key qualifier. I don't want teachers waltzing around waving dildos or guns to no purpose, simply to say "Look at my phallic symbol!' But I can conceive valid purposes for both in a school and if steps are taken to ensure they are used for only those valid purposes then fine.

    The attempt to attain your point via reductio ad absurdum isn't going to work on me this time. ;-)

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.12

    I am simply stunned. To defend your guns-in-school position, you of all people are willing to grant that dildoes can have a valid educational purpose. Make me principal, and I won't let anyone bring either a gun or a dildo into my building.

    I do appreciate your recognition of the fundamental motivation for HB 1087: the desire to wave one's phallic symbol in public instead of playing with it alone at home.

  27. PNR 2013.02.13

    I don't take that stance to defend guns in school. I simply take the truth that inanimate objects are not moral actors to its logical conclusion. Note that we have not specified what those valid, moral, pedagogical uses are or the safeguards or accountability structure. It is likely that the narrow limits of the former (valid uses) and the cost of the latter (safeguards, et al.) will make dildos as impractical as guns in the vast majority of cases.

    But classes use cucumbers, bananas, and other objects to illustrate certain functions already (at least in some urban districts in other states). Will you ban cucumbers because they are at times used for immoral purposes? Or will you impose appropriate safeguards to ensure a greater likelihood of moral usage? That depends on the benefits of cucumbers and the cost of the safeguards.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.13

    No, I will ban dildoes because the moral message they send entirely outweighs their miniscule educational value, which can be attained with much less moral damage by using more value-neutral items like cucumbers.

    Agreed, inanimate objects are not moral actors. But they convey moral messages, especially when we place them in the classroom. No safeguard negates the harmful moral messages (not to mention potential for mischief) raised by bringing guns and dildoes to school.

  29. PNR 2013.02.13

    But if one uses a cucumber as a dildo, what difference is there in the moral message? Does the anatomically accurate shape of the former really make a difference?

    So the moral message is in the use, or anticipated/expected use, not in the object itself.

    Your objection, too, it seems to me is in the anticipated use of these objects, coupled with the cost of safeguards to prevent those uses you consider immoral. I am fairly confident that most school boards would reach the same conclusion - that the potential benefits (pedagogical or security) obtained by using dildos and guns do not justify the expense and hassle of preventing negative uses, so it is better to just keep their distance from both. So I have no problem with the bill allowing school boards to think that through and choose for themselves.

  30. larry kurtz 2013.02.13

    Where is DD and the Department of Public Safety on this dealio? If only South Dakota really had leaders instead of reactionaries.

  31. larry kurtz 2013.02.13

    School shootings are nothing short of domestic terrorism. What good is a .38 Special against a white boy in body armor with a weapon of mass destruction?

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.13

    I'm still shaking my head in disbelief, PNR. But I keep coming back for more.

    My objection is not in anticipated use. It's in some moral content inherently associated with the tool. If I stand in front of students using a dildo as a pointer, I'm doing something. If I stand in front of students with a dildo in my hand, I undermine my moral and professional authority as a teacher. If I have a dildo in my classroom file cabinet, out of sight, I still feel like I'm doing something unseemly, out-of-joint with my professional ethics.

    Substitute "pistol" for "dildo." If we're trying to justify the presence of either item in a classroom, we're working too hard. School boards don't need to think through this issue and choose any more than they need to consider whether they want teachers to smoke while teaching. Local control is for choosing among competing, viable educational practices, not choosing between good policies and bad policies.

Comments are closed.