RCAS forum addresses guns in classrooms, mental health

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Protecting the lives of local students, even if it means arming teachers, was the main topic at a special forum.

Parents, students, education experts and law enforcement gathered at Western Dakota Technical Institute on Tuesday to talk about the role of guns in Rapid City's schools.

After the Parkland, Fla. shooting, some have said that teachers who are qualified should have guns in school to keep students safe in the case of a shooting.

Some, like Central High School Student Gabrielle Smith, spoke out against the idea, saying money could be invested elsewhere.

"Our budget here is already so tight, especially for education," said Smith. "So if our budget is already tight, are we going to raise taxes to pay for weapons for teachers, or what are we going to cut?"

Police and educators then touted their ability to communicate and coordinate to keep kids safe. They said that their working relationship is the result of teamwork and good relations over the years. It was then revealed that some school liaison officers in Rapid City already keep long rifles in the school under heavy lock and key in case of a shooting.

Educators then discussed the new mental health pilot program with Behavior Management Systems and also talked about the effectiveness of the district's new ALICE training.

However, with countless possible solutions to the problem, Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said that people should take all of them into account.

"Unfortunately, there isn't an instant remedy to this," said Jegeris. "We need to be very strategic in our approach, we need to be thoughtful, we need to be sure it matches our community. And there isn't a singular answer to resolve this situation."

Jegeris also said Rapid City teachers do not need to come to school armed with guns, because there are already enough resources in place to keep kids safe.

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