- Associated Press - Thursday, April 26, 2018

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 26

School debate doesn’t have to be gun-centric

It’s been five years since the school sentinel bill sponsored by Scott Craig of Rapid City was signed into law. Most school districts didn’t like it then and still don’t like it for numerous reasons, including one that everyone who pays property taxes should be able to agree with - it could cause catastrophic damage to a school district’s finances.

Rapid City school district Superintendent Lori Simon spelled it out to sentinel supporters who brought their political agenda to Monday’s school board meeting.

The discussion started before the 17-minute student walkout on March 13 when gun advocates asked to participate in the protest to educate students about school sentinels, who can be teachers, school staff members or volunteers that are permitted to carry guns in schools.

After the Rapid City school district denied the request, they decided to ask the school board to devote resources to studying a sentinel program.

“If schools are safer now, then why do we have a countrywide march to disarm law-abiding citizens?” asked one woman, referring to nationwide student protests after the school shooting in Florida that claimed 17 lives, including 14 students. She wants the school district to form a task force.

Tonchi Weaver of the activist group Citizens for Liberty asked the district to hold a study session with law enforcement officials and insurance experts to explore the need for more armed individuals in schools even though many parents and the police department don’t want to see that.

Simon later explained, however, why the idea is a non-starter, which is something that every fiscally conservative government watchdog should understand. She explained that the district’s insurance underwriters will only cover shooting incidents involving “school resource officers and armed security guards.”

In other words, school sentinels are extreme liability issues. If they shoot anyone, it likely would lead to a civil lawsuit that would cost the district thousands of dollars in legal fees and much more if damages were awarded - and all at taxpayer expense if there is no insurance coverage.

She went on to say that as a result “any consideration is a waste of time, energy and focus,” which should come as a relief to those who complain about the impact the schools have on their property taxes.

If the school district is going to hold a study session, the focus needs to be on making schools safer without invoking the Second Amendment and an individual’s right to bear arms.

On Wednesday, the Journal reported that the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center will purchase portable metal detectors with grant money from the South Dakota Office of Homeland Security in order to comply with requests from promoters that demand better security at their shows.

Courthouses have used metal detectors for years with great success, preventing the kind of gun violence that occurs all too often at schools, churches, businesses and the workplace in the United States.

At Columbine High School in Colorado, where 13 students were shot to death in 1999, doors that can only be opened from the inside have been installed to keep intruders out. The district also has taken steps that make it more difficult for students to get trapped if a shooter is rampaging through the school.

Other options for improving school safety exist and should be explored by the school district and state Legislature, which has done nothing to make schools safer beyond passing the school sentinel bill, which puts all the burdens and costs on school districts and local law enforcement.

As much as some want to make this a Second Amendment issue, it’s really a school-safety issue. As Simon said, the district can’t afford to take a chance on sentinels. In a rational debate, it would end the discussion and other options would be explored. That’s what needs to happen. The school district already has too much on its plate to become another Second Amendment battleground.


Capital Journal, Pierre, April 25

Another question to think about in regard to treating Pierre’s water

Those of us who live in Pierre are well acquainted with the city’s less-than-pleasant tap water situation.

Indeed, there are more than a few Fort Pierre residents who’ll cite Pierre’s stinky, stain-inducing water as a key reason why they currently reside on the Missouri’s western shore. Pierre water has an excess of manganese and iron, which stains fixtures, sidewalks, houses and anything else with which it comes into regular contact. The city’s water also smells of sulfur. It’s perfectly safe to drink according to state and federal regulators, it’s just not aesthetically pleasing.

So it’s a good thing that city leaders are, after several years, taking another serious look at building a treatment plant for the city’s water. We are right to be asking our leaders to look for ways to de-stink our water.

The alternative we’re being presented with, however, is another issue entirely. It’s going to cost us $37 million to build a new treatment plant. That’s a huge chunk of change and could end up costing the average resident an extra $32 a month or about $384 a year. That’s a lot of money to fix an aesthetic problem. This cost will be especially burdensome to those among us who already are struggling to make ends meet.

Most of us will be able to adjust to the new expense. And the adjustment will be made easier because the costs will be phased in over time. This is a good thing but it doesn’t change the fact that the older folks on fixed incomes and the folks who just don’t make much money are going to struggle to foot this heftier bill. We can’t forget that as we debate the treatment plant.

We need to ask ourselves if it’s fair to ask folks who can least afford an extra $384 annual expense to help foot the bill for a problem that really isn’t hurting anyone. After all, we don’t have lead in our water. We have iron, manganese and an off-putting smell, all of which can be remedied with a water softener and a reverse osmosis filter, which are up to individual homeowners to buy.

Building a new water treatment plant isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it may well be the best thing to do right now. Building such a facility isn’t likely to get any cheaper over the years. But if we decide to build the thing, we need to recognize that some of us are going to be impacted more than others and we should take steps to make sure those folks aren’t hurt by our collective desire for tap water that doesn’t smell like fermented eggs.


Madison Daily Leader, April 25

Mundy is inspiring to high school women

Best-selling author Liza Mundy spoke in Madison on Monday, and her message was eagerly received by high school women and others at Dakota State University.

The setting was the Aspirations in Computing Award Ceremony, which honored high school women who are active and interested in computing and technology, as well as educators who encourage high school women’s interest in technology.

Mundy, who wrote the national bestseller “Code Girls,” told the audience about women who worked to break German and Japanese coded communications during World War II that helped win the war. Part of the message was that women have succeeded in information technology for far longer than many people believe.

Mundy emphasized that college-educated women in 1942 were expected to be teachers, nurses or housewives, but thousands were codebreakers sworn to secrecy about their role in the war. Most of the stories were never told, but knowing them today can be inspiring to young women.

DSU President Dr. Jose-Marie Griffiths attributed some of the missing history of women in information technology to the fact that men wrote most of the history. Griffiths brought up the quote, “When you write your life’s story, don’t let someone else hold the pen.”

DSU faculty Ashley Podhradsky and Pam Rowland have been especially diligent in encouraging young women to pursue information technology careers, especially in cyber sciences. They are co-founders of the organization CybHER, which seeks to motivate, educate and change the perception of women in cybersecurity.

The afternoon event was inspiring not only to the young women but also to all of us in attendance. We thank Liza Mundy and the organizers for a great day.

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