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No Superintendent at Chamber Forum Supports School Gunslinger Bill

Last updated on 2013.04.13

Josh Verges notes that Superintendent Pam Homan has declined to stake out a position on House Bill 1087, the school gunslinger bill signed into law by our Governor.

But watch the video Verges provides of the Chamber forum of school superintendents from last Friday. Homan says some silly things, like that the school gunslinger bill was "certainly well-thought-through." But she stops short of supporting the bill.

The other eight superintendents at the dais offer comments ranging from similar caution to outright condemnation. Not one of these education professionals says, "Yes, arming teachers and volunteers is a good idea for school safety."

Some highlights:

  • Brandon Valley Supt. David Pappone says he supports a comprehensive study of school security issues, which the Legislature rejected (what was that about this legislation being "well-thought-through" Dr. Homan?). He notes that, given the use of "local control" as a rallying watch-word, there are hundreds of pages of state regulations that schools might not mind deciding, if the Legislature would let them. Pappone says he'd be surprised if his district adopted the school gunslinger program.
  • Harrisburg Supt. Jim Holbeck notes armed guards at Columbine and Red Lake didn't stop those school shootings. He worries that the "hysteria" in what some people want to do will harm our civility. Holbeck says "I don't want my grandkids to grow up in a police state or the Wild West."
  • West Central Supt. Jeff Danielson says he doesn't want his children to believe that the only way to be safe is to have somebody packing a weapon.
  • Sioux Falls Catholic Schools Supt. Tom Lorang sees no rush to put this issue on his board's agenda. He says the current resource officer at O'Gorman seems adequate.
  • Sioux Falls Lutheran Supt. Tia Esser noted that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says legislation like HB 1087 seems like a marketing opportunity for gunmakers. She says she polled her teachers and found not one is interested in carrying a gun.
  • Sioux Falls Christian Supt. Jay Woudstra says supplementing their school resource offier with armed gunslingers à la HB 1087 will not be happening in his building any time soon.
  • Lennox Supt. Robert Meyer testified against HB 1087 in Pierre. He's still against it, saying HB 1087 puts guns in the hands of people with limited training and the wrong mindset. He says the bill isn't about local control and that its potential for creating problems is greater than its potential for solving any. HB 1087 was amended into a better form than the original, but "you can't amend poor legislation into good law."
  • Tri-Valley Supt. Michael Lodmel said the local control aspect of HB 1087 kept his district from actively opposing the bill. However, he doesn't foresee his school using HB 1087.

That's nine professionals saying HB 1087 is unnecessary for their districts. Readers, I ask you to keep your ears open for any local superintendent or school board that supports and plans to implement HB 1087.

Update 2013.04.13 12:08 MDT: Also unenthusiastic about implementing HB 1087 in their schools: the superintendents at Waubay and Webster, as well as Day County Sheriff Barry Hillested.


  1. Dougal 2013.03.21

    With bone-headed, hackneyed partisan ideas like the School Gunslinger Bill pushed into law, what Sen. Russ Olson says we need more of in the legislature is: Tax-financed partisan staff to write more partisan bills!

    In today's Argus Leader, Russ said it's because the legislature is too weak compared to the executive branch and needs more staff writing more bills so the legislative branch can even up the score.

    “We’re at such a disadvantage with a full-time governor’s staff that works on fiscal and policy discussions 365 days a year,” said Olson, a Republican from Wentworth. “We show up for 38 and are expected to put this all together.”

    No kidding! South Dakota shouldn't be shortsuited with just one governor. Russ wants an additional 105 governors out there churning out legislation from new Legislative Research Council employees who are hired specifically as partisan hacks. The LRC is the 60-year-old brainchild of the late Dr. Bill Farber as a nonpartisan source of 21 fulltime staff who write legislation, according to the wishes of 105 legislators. Russ thinks that a handful of additional staff who are identified as Republicans or Democrats will solve the inequality problem between the branches of government.

    Up until now, the political parties have supplied staff paid by contributions to support the partisan aims of the GOP and Dem caucuses during the 35 and 40-day sessions. I think that's adequate, and has successfully yielded plenty of dumb legislation like the Gunslinger bill. But if Russy Boy wants to heal the deformities of the legislature, maybe he ought to correct the self-inflicted wounds that truly cripple the branch's standing:

    * Stop the term limits. Just as an effective legislator learns the ropes, gets seniority on committees and develops other expertise and relationships with state agencies, they are term limited. How stupid! This was a dumb idea aimed at Congress, but self-inflicted to show Washington how smart we are in South Dakota. How's it working for ya, Russ?

    * Start developing a GOP caucus agenda instead of rubberstamping everything from the governor's office. The GOP caucus arrives in Pierre every year empty-headed, except to be controlled from the 2nd floor like remote controlled zombies. Put tight restrictions on lobbying from the administration. Guess what will happen? The 2nd floor will start respecting you when you start standing up for yourself and your districts.

    * Reform lobbying reporting procedures and clean up campaign finance laws to keep the lobbyists from also controlling the legislature with their campaign contributions and offers for free dinners, drinks and favors to curry votes. Put limits on gifts and put teeth in laws requiring lobbyist reporting and penalties on vote-buying. It's no secret these guys go to Pierre with the clients' funding, but spend much of the time spying and twisting arms to appease the 2nd Floor.

    * Stop the insane bills, like the Gunslinger Bill or the anti-science bills or the voter suppression bills or the anti-reproductive choice bills or the stupid anti-United Nations resolutions that nobody understands or cares about except nutjob conspiracy goofs. Folks send you to Pierre to solve real problems, not to invent boogeymen and joust windmills.

    There are soooooo many ways to strengthen the standing of the legislature, Russ, but hiring more staff to write more bills that will get dismissed because they're nutty partisan crap is the wrong way to succeed. As long as there is an ALEC, there will be no shortage to dumb ideas that are intended to hurt the liberties of Americans, and that should be sufficient for the right-wing goofballs in Pierre.

    Cory, sorry to rant off-topic like this, but seeing this post having read Russ' whining about needing more legislative power got my goat.

  2. Owen Reitzel 2013.03.21

    I've talked to a couple of supt. in my area and none of them are for this bill either. Maybe Graves in Mitchell. I haven't heard anything from him.
    It's a bad bill and just another "pass the buck" from the legislators.

  3. Mark 2013.03.21

    Maybe Homan's seemingly contradictory statement is a way to let others exhibit leadership and avoid alienating potential detractors. All too often, the larger school districts lead the way in the regions, but in Sioux Falls, the opposite seems to be true.

    Owen --- Do you think this will be on the Mitchell agenda before it's asked about at a school board meeting?

  4. Roger Elgersma 2013.03.21

    So South Dakota lets the world lead them rather than making local decisions based on local problems. No one has ever been shot in a South Dakota school. So in the name of local control they want us to react to a problem on the east coast as if it is a local situation here.
    Same thing happened with the economy. Farm economy up for five years in a row and they cut the school funding because they are afraid they will not be able to get revenue in a bad national economy. They forgot the local situation, and the gov is even a farmer.
    These people have no idea that kids learn from examples. The adults want to learn from bad examples in other states and rule in reaction to that. But while they say this is a good state because of the people and their values, they react as if we are no different than anywheres else. Either this is a good state with good people or we are as bad as everyone else. If we are good people, why not pay us the same wages as everywhere else. If we are no better and the wages are lowest, why do we stay.

  5. mc 2013.03.21

    Every one of the nine schools has a *gasp* ARMED officer in the building or can have an ARMED response within minutes if not second of an incident. What about the schools that law enforcement might be 20 minutes or better away?

    I have said before, I believe most school will pass on this option.

  6. SDBlue 2013.03.21

    This is a direct result of allowing ALEC to dictate the laws of our state. We already have SFPD Resource Officers in our schools in Sioux Falls. I am also not too thrilled about the new law giving us an MMA Athletic Commission. South Dakota being so pro-gun & pro-MMA makes us look like we are pro-violence in my view. I know people will jump at the chance to attend an MMA event, but I cannot imagine taking my child to an event where people beat each other to a pulp for sport.

  7. Owen Reitzel 2013.03.21

    "Do you think this will be on the Mitchell agenda before it's asked about at a school board meeting?"

    Don't know what you mean Mark for sure. If I understand you right it will be.

  8. PNR 2013.03.21

    I recall saying when the bill was first introduced that I highly doubted any school board in any of the more urban districts would take advantage of the offer entailed in the bill, so there was little to worry about in granting them the choice.

    School boards loathe controversy. Putting up a program as envisioned by the bill would embroil them in months of controversy. They will stay away from it, and as far as possible.

  9. Mark 2013.03.21

    Thanks, Owen.

  10. LK 2013.03.21


    I teach in one of South Dakota's larger districts. We don't have an armed resource officer. I don’t feel unsafe.

    This pistolier bill is based on an overreaction to an event that happened in Connecticut. It has nothing to do with events that have happened South Dakota in this century.

    The risks of an armed murderer attacking a school are minimal. If we wanted to reduce risk of harm, we could demand that we have traffic police outside the parking lot after school every day. High school students probably face a greater risk of serious harm from a car accident than they do from an intruder. We could ban all left turns coming into and leaving school parking lots. We don’t because the risks are minimal and that sort of law would be an over-reaction just like authorizing people to pack pistols in school is.

    Heck, I bet that students have a better chance of dying from a weird strain of flu than they do of being shot. We don’t authorize schools to have staff carry concealed syringes and inoculate students who might get sick. No one would ever seriously propose something like that either.

    This bill is bad law. A smart but troubled kid who wants to harm himself or herself along with others is going to find a way to do it and no John Wayne wannabe is going to stop him or her.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.22

    MC, even the Marines can't stop a shooter. We could argue that armed school resource officers are security theater and a waste of resources that could be used to hire another teacher to pay a cop to patrol areas where dangerous crime is more likely.

    But suppose I accept the wisdom of an armed school resource officer. Why should South Dakota schools try to get by on the cheap with armed teachers and volunteers? Instead of HB 1087, how about we pay for the quality protection of a trained police officer in every school, including the rural ones?

  12. Steve Sibson 2013.03.22

    "Instead of HB 1087, how about we pay for the quality protection of a trained police officer in every school, including the rural ones?"

    Yes Cory, a continuation of the totalitarian police state are schools already represent.

  13. larry kurtz 2013.03.22

    So, let's lock students up with embedded school shooters so they can feel even more like prisoners than they do now.

  14. Dougal 2013.03.22

    Here's an idea the NRA and their owners at the arms manufacturing corporations would like: Arm small children. Out of a sense of compassion and responsibility, the gun companies can make .22 caliber pint-sized assault guns with 30-round clips so our first and second graders can defend themselves in the classroom. Instructions, little Johnny, are easy. Just point, hold down the trigger and spray bullets. Problems solved.

    Think of the jobs created arming every elementary school student. And what's more freedom loving and American than watching a school bus full of kids run into the school with their mini-assault rifles and pistols, eager to face the daily challenges of growing up.

  15. mc 2013.03.22

    Wow! I can't believe you actually believe this.

    No one would walk up to a supermarket parking lot where a congresswoman is having an meet and greet event and start shooting.

    No one would go to an Amish school and starting killing

    No one would shoot a school bus driver then take a child hostage in an underground bunker.

    No one would go into school and start randomly killing students and staff.

    No one would walk into a movie theater and pop tear gas and smoke then start randomly shooting.

    No one would booby trap their apartment to kill who ever walked in the door.

    No one would walk up to someone out side their office and shoot and kill them.

    The list goes on and on. I would be willing to bet that someone somewhere said 'This wouldn't happen here” It does happen. Just because this is South Dakota doesn't mean it can't happen here. It can, and if we keep going the way we are, it will.

    Something that disturbs me about this debate. During the smoking ban debate I argued that the ban would take away rights from business and land owners, that they should be the one to decide weather or not smoking is allowed. If the proponents for such ban were truly serious, they should persuade private business to not allow smoking. Instead they (anti-smoking lobby) took a short cut and took their message to the legislature who passed a law, saving the anti-smoking group untold thousands in their anti-smoking campaign. Now during this debate, the anti-gun folks are trying to get the state to make the decision for the local school boards. Granted it is easier to try to convince 105 legislators, then it would be to convince each school district's governing board. However, the school does not belong to the State of South Dakota, it belongs to the residents of their respective district. They should have the right to conduct the school business in a manner that best suits them. If they feel the need for armed security, they should have the option of acquiring such security.

    I am not in favor of just letting any teacher or other staff member just carry a firearm in to the classroom just because they can. They have to be trained (I guessed some of you may have missed this part) and there have to be various safeguards in place. Even then there has to be some need for such extreme measures.

    If we arm every teacher, every staff member, every bus driver and every parent that still wouldn't stop these events from happening. We still need to address the root causes in our society. Until we do that, it is only going to get worse.

  16. LK 2013.03.22


    More guns would not have stopped any of incidents that you list. You even agree to that in your closing paragraph: "If we arm every teacher, every staff member, every bus driver and every parent that still wouldn't stop these events from happening. We still need to address the root causes in our society. Until we do that, it is only going to get worse.

    I don't care what people do with guns on their own. I don't want them arond me when I work.

  17. LK 2013.03.22

    hit send too soon--because having more guns in schools won't make anyone safer.

  18. Steve Sibson 2013.03.22

    "I don't want them arond me when I work."

    So because of you unfounded paranoia about guns, your co-workers have to give up their rights to bear arms?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.22

    Come on, Steve, you know that's not the policy I want. I'm challenging those who think schools aren't safe and require an armed presence to pony up the dollars for serious armed security. They don't want to hire real law enforcement officers. They want vigilantes for free. That's not about creating a police state. That's about asking people who believe in the need for armed guards to pay full price for the value they think they want.

  20. MC 2013.03.24

    Many schools have an automated external defibrillator (AED) somewhere where it is easily accessible. Why? Because when a heart stops, seconds (not minutes) count. An ambulance and a life support might be 5 to 10 even 20 minutes away, you want to do everything possible to maintain that life until the trained EMT arrive. While there are things you can do before hand to minimize the possibility of someone having a heart attack. You could turn the school into a ‘heart free zone.’ You can emphasize a heart healthy lifestyle in the community. No matter what you do there is still that possibility that someone will have a heart attack. If and when it does happen you want to be ready to deal with that emergency.

    The same hold true with someone that is coming to kill. You can take various steps like making the school a gun free zone; you can a health mental status of the community, etc. When that person walks in and start shooting, you need to be prepared for that as well. An armed response might be minutes away and seconds count. You are not going to stop it, the best you can do is limit the amount damage that is done.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.24

    As far as I know, our Spearfish HS defibrillators have never been used. But if misused by untrained or nervous non-medical personnel, they aren't going to put a bullet in my daughter. No disgruntled kid or teacher is going to snap and go on a mass defibrillating rampage. And no one is made to feel they live in a fearful armed camp by having medical equipment on the premises. Again, we have to measure real cost versus benefit.

    "need"—again, I get the impression that you're telling me that if I as a teacher do not arm myself to respond to school shooters with deadly force, I am violating the public trust and not carrying out my professional obligations. Is that the case?

  22. LK 2013.03.24


    Cory didn't point out that there's evidence that defibrillators save lives. There's no evidence that guns in the hands of people who have minimal training will save lives, especially in a chaotic situation like a school shooting.

    Those of us who oppose the pistolier law and those of you who support it begin with two different premises. You believe it will make students safer. Those of use oppose believe it will increase risks.

    You're going to point to some examples of shooters being stopped. We're going to respond that most, if not all, of those who stopped shooters are off duty police or military personal. We're going to point to reports that show that police marksmanship decreases dramatically during live fire situations.

    You're posts here and at SDWC seem to indicate that you believe that you and other people who have experience with guns will be able to stop an armed intruder. It's unclear if you believe that those of us who oppose school pistoliers are cowards.

    I don't have the same faith in your fellow gun owners that you do. I expect they will increase the chaos and injuries in the situation. In absence of hard evidence, I believe the results will be worse than police officers in live fire situation.

    I haven't had to deal with an armed assailant, I hope and pray that I will handle the situation well. That's the best anyone can do until one actually faces the situation.

    This issue seems like a religion argument. The supporters of the school pistoliers are gun believers. Those of us who oppose it are gun atheists.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.25

    I understand that seconds count in responding to a medical emergency. I understand that defibrillators provide a reasonable response to that threat without creating major risks to school staff and students.

    I've already read Jeanne Assam's story. She was a trained police officer.

    If we take this analogy to heart attacks and defibrillators seriously, then I would suggest that arming teachers and other volunteers is the equivalent of saying, "We can't afford real defibrillators, so we're gonna let the shop kids rig up a crash cart with a couple of car batteries and some soup ladles on jumper cables."

    And MC, with respect, you keep missing the point your words are making: that schools are acting irresponsibly if they don't defend themselves against a threat that is less likely than heart attacks with technology that is harder to use properly and more likely to cause harm than defibrillators. My pint is that responsible educators do real cost-benefit analysis and keep guns out of their schools.

  24. mc 2013.03.25

    Exactly Cory!

    Each school district should decide what security measures need to be in place, not the legislature and certainly non our congress. They may decide they don't need it, then revisit the issue at a later date as the need arises. They don't make the decision by themselves they work with local law enforcement to decide what level of security is needed. There may be a case where Blackwater security may need to be hired for an specific event; this law allows school boards to make that possible.

    Each of the cases involve a trained person with firearm. Anyone serving as security at a school would be trained and they would need to work with local law enforcement, that is in the law. This law doesn't allow just anyone to holster up and walk around a school.

    I can appreciate that as a teacher your job is generally not security. However in an emergency you can become a firefighter with a fire extinguisher, medic with an AED, or even as protector moving the children in your charge to safety. Of course if you want, you can do nothing citing 'It is not my job.'

    No amount of training can truly prepare someone for a real fire fight. The emotions involved are exceptionally strong. Will you freeze up, run and hide or fight back? I honestly hope we will never have to find out.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.25

    Hire Blackwater for an event? That sounds like an event a school shouldn't have in the first place.

    I'm not saying "it's not my job." Protecting kids is a core part of my job. I'm saying I can and should do that without resorting to carrying an instrument of lethal violence every day.

    MC's last paragraph again shows the weak benefit side of the equation for HB 1087. We have so little guarantee that this plan will increase anyone's safety that it makes it all the harder to accept the immediate pyscho-cultural harm and the increased risk of physical harm.

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