NDDPI Looks to Public Opinion on ‘Armed First Responder’ Program

Local News

In the latest legislative session lawmakers passed House Bill 1332, allowing armed first responders to be present North Dakota schools.

Six months after it was passed, questions remain about how the bill will actually play out once the bell rings.

With school shootings continuing to make headlines, HB 1332 creates the Armed First Responder program, a first of its kind bill in North Dakota which allows a designated individual to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.

“The intent was for the smaller schools who had a 45 minute or longer response time from police,” said Stan Schauer, assistant director of School Approval and Opportunity for North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction took public comment Monday, taking into consideration some concerns such as who would be a first responder.

“I’m concerned with the vetting process of the person that they choose. It could be an outstanding citizen, but you might not know that there has been domestic violence in their household,” said Susan Beehler, Found of ND Chapter of Moms Demand Action.

As a member of Moms Demand Action and a survivor of domestic violence, Beehler wanted to makes sure her voice was heard, not only as a member of the community but also a concerned grandparent.

“That the parents and grandparents of children in that school have some say in who that first responder is. And to me, it’s going to be kind of secretive and I don’t think that’s a good idea,” shares Beehler.

Beehler proposed that they take into consideration a personal reference background check, questioning people who know the individual on a personal level.

But this is not a requirement by the state.

“It’s not listed in law, so we couldn’t list it as a criteria in the rules as we’re not allowed to go above and beyond what’s listed in law. School boards are mandated this program or running this program. So they could make that a criteria if they would like to,” explains Schauer.

Not everyone will be eligible to be an armed first responder.

They must meet the following criteria:

  • Cannot be someone who is responsible for direct supervision of children.
  • Must go through extensive law enforcement training.
  • Must be 21 years old or older.
  • Be trained in crisis management and advance first aid

“Could it be a volunteer? It could if they went through all the training. I think ideally it would be someone who works in the school. Someone who’s familiar with the school and the students themselves and is able to go through the training and able to serve in the capacity,” shares Schauer.

The deadline for public comment is Dec. 19.

North Dakotans who are interested in the proposed rules may comment on them by calling or emailing Jim Upgren, assistant director for School Approval and Opportunity at NDDPI.

Upgren’s email and phone number are: jimupgren@nd.gov and 701-328-2244.

After reviewing all the comments they will make adjustments if needed.

The program could begin as early as April 1, 2020.

The Armed First Responder program applies to both public and private schools.

If a school wishes to change any of the required criteria, they must get their plan approved by several agencies, including Department of Emergency Service of Homeland Security.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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