Rules being drafted for North Dakota armed responder program

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota and federal officials are developing the rules for a state program that would allow armed first responders to be posted in schools as many districts look to improve safety following mass shootings across the country.

Kirsten Baesler, the state’s superintendent, expects the draft to be complete by June 13, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

North Dakota lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that permits school districts to designate an armed first responder as long as the person doesn’t directly supervise students and undergoes training.

The legislation requires districts to create a security plan that’s approved by law enforcement and the Homeland Security Department’s North Dakota office.

The office is working with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and the attorney general’s office to create an outline for the program. The agencies will then seek input from an impromptu school safety group that Baesler formed after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year.

It’s unclear how many schools will sign up for the program, but it’s being considered by some small districts in rural areas like Edmore.

Superintendent Frank Schill said the nearest law enforcement office to Edmore is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) away in Devils Lake. The district comprised of about 50 students also lacks a school resource officer, so it could take some time for law enforcement to respond to an emergency.

“The (school) board sees there’s a potential need for a first responder but have not committed to going that route because they don’t know what the details look like at this time,” he said.

Some education groups opposed to bringing guns inside schools argued that it would threaten student safety and lead to potential lawsuits or higher insurance costs.

Department of Public Instruction officials will next bring the program outline to the Legislature’s administrative rules committee for approval, Baesler said. It’s unlikely that the program is in order to begin this fall.

“We want to make sure we do it well rather than do it quickly,” she said.

Categories: North Dakota News