Commission moves to close loophole in armed school sentinel program

Current rules don’t disqualify people who are barred from possessing firearms

By: - August 30, 2023 5:24 pm
A person tries out a semi-automatic pistol at The Gun Store in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Current eligibility rules for the state’s armed school sentinel program don’t disqualify people who are barred from possessing firearms, according to Hank Prim, executive secretary for the Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission.

But the commission endorsed a rule change Wednesday in Pierre that would close that “loophole,” as Prim called it. 

The Legislature created the sentinel program in 2013. It allows school boards to arm school employees, security guards or volunteers with guns to defend the school against an attack.

The commission became aware of the loophole recently when it received a school sentinel application from someone who falsified information on the application.

The applicant was deemed ineligible to meet minimum standards to become a school sentinel, Attorney General Marty Jackley told South Dakota Searchlight.

Information about what was falsified, who submitted the application and what school district received the application is confidential, Jackley said.

Under the rule change, which needs final approval by a legislative rules committee later this year, applications could be rejected on “good cause” grounds, which includes a failure to meet minimum standards, falsifying or omitting information, and being barred from possessing firearms based on state or federal laws.

The new rule adds that a school board can resubmit a rejected application after a year has passed.

The state commission endorsed several other rule changes at its meeting, including a rule to allow adults younger than 21 to be hired by law enforcement agencies across the state.

As the rules currently stand, someone younger than 21 cannot be a law enforcement officer in the state of South Dakota. Jackley told commissioners that the issue was brought up during the latest legislative session.

“If we don’t do this, the Legislature will likely do it for us,” Jackley said during the meeting.

The rule change allows the committee to waive the minimum age requirement for select candidates who’ve completed a law enforcement program at a state technical college and want to be hired by an agency. 

The commission also reviewed 30 complaint forms and investigations into law enforcement officer behavior. Nearly all of them were dismissed by the commission. However, Commissioner Steve Allender, former Rapid City mayor and former Rapid City police chief, suggested further investigation into an allegation of a county law enforcement officer using county and federal resources to further his private investigation company.

Complaints against law enforcement officers are confidential during investigations.




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Makenzie Huber
Makenzie Huber

Makenzie Huber is a lifelong South Dakotan whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent five years as a journalist with experience reporting on workforce, development and business issues within the state.