Senate hears testimony for armed first responder in schools bill

BISMARCK, N.D. - A bill proposed to arm a first responder at schools across the state has made its way to the Senate.

The bill's mission is to provide safety for students in areas that can't afford a school resource officer. Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, says there will be a vetting process before a person gets approved for the position through local law enforcement and the state's Homeland Security Division.

Heinert says they've added a provision to the bill for there to be a lock box in the facility to hold the firearm.

School resource officers provide more than just safety.

Heinert says if an SRO isn't an option for a school then lawmakers in favor of the bill want to give districts another option and provide the means of doing it.

"I am not at all unsympathetic to the fact that there are many of these communities that are far away. I just think that a much more broad approach to school safety needs to be taken rather than just relying on an individual who's armed," said Nick Archuleta, ND United president.

Archuleta says they don't want teachers or administrators to be considered for the armed responder position because they already have responsibilities.

"I don't want to eliminate a school from having an option, and that might be their only option, having one of the teachers. But what we did put in the bill, is we said whoever the armed first responder will be, if they're in charge of kids at that point and time, they have to remain with the kids. They cannot act as the armed first responder," said Heinert.

All sides of the issue agree safety for children is key, it's just matter of agreeing on how to provide it.

Heinert says school resource officers are the best option but not all school districts have the funding for one.

The program the bill proposes would allow school districts to decide if they want it; it wouldn't be mandatory.