Rules drafted for armed first responder in schools bill, public comments welcomed until next Thursday

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Representatives with the Department of Public Instruction listened to public comments Monday morning on the Armed First Responder Bill.

The bill was introduced earlier this year during the legislative session and it allows school boards to decide if they want to arm someone on school grounds.

During the session representatives said the bill was to help rural schools that may have law enforcement farther away.

While larger school districts may have school resource officers others across the state don't have law enforcement nearby in case of an emergency.

"I think it's important to give the option. So the option wasn't there before you couldn't do it. So at least now there's an option for a school to look at, if the school board thinks it's necessary for their overall plan," said Stan Schauer, Department of Public Instruction

The option isn't mandatory for schools.

"We definitely didn't want to have armed people in our schools," said parent Susan Beehler.

Beehler was the only person to comment on the rules on Monday morning.

"The situation can also be where there's intimidation factors or dealing with maybe a behavioral problem and then having an armed person and looking at that child as a threat or that student as a threat, when maybe they need some help," said Beehler.

Representatives with the Department of Public Instruction say public comment is important.

Schauer said: "It's kind of a collection of everyone’s thoughts and ideas. It could help make the rules better. It could help make the program better. So it's important to collect that information before the rules go final."

The draft of the rules state the chosen responder will work closely with law enforcement, homeland security and emergency services.

Other proposed requirements include someone who can identify school crisis and threats through an emergency operations assessment. The responder must also participate in annual active shooter trainings.

Schauer says they had a big committee work on the draft in order to get a good set of rules in place for the program.

Public comment will be accepted on the topic until December 19.

You can send an email to JimUpgren@nd.gov.

In March there will be a legislative administration rules hearing. On April 1 rules will go into effect and school districts participating can begin the process of applying.