Bismarck, ND – In the next few weeks, the City of Bismarck will vote on it’s 2019 budget. One of the most controversial pieces of the budget is the Police Department’s request for nearly $26,000 to place AR-15’s in several Bismarck Public Schools.
KX News was the first to break this story last month. After our story aired, school board members told us, they hadn’t even been made aware of the Police Department’s request.
On March 26th, Legacy High School student Haiden Pederson was evacuated from school.
“When I was running down the street going to our safe haven, my initial thought was what is going to happen next. Is this real?” she said.
It was the first of four bomb threats at her school last spring.
Just two days earlier, Pederson and about 100 other people took part in Bismarck’s March for our Lives.
“We as the future generation need to do something so we can have a safer environment for our kids,” she said.
The Bismarck Police Department came up with a plan.
In the city’s preliminary budget, the Police Department’s requested money for AR-15’s, gun safes, bullet proof vests and medical kits to help in a mass shooting situation. They will be kept inside some schools.
“The only difference is, instead of the SRO having to respond. Right now if they are in the school already, they have to run out and get the equipment. This puts it in the school at a location they can get to and access it more quickly,” Sgt. Tim Sass with the police department said.
Pederson called the idea a double-edged sword.
“it is just risky even having those weapons near a public school or any facility because of the dangers it can cause,” she said.
When we first posted this story on Facebook, we got hundreds of reactions with all different kinds of opinions. Until we reported this story, the public wasn’t notified about the proposal or given a chance to voice those opinions.
“Parents should have knowledge of it,” Krisanna Peterson said. She has an 11-year-old son in the district.
“Even just the idea of it being at the school makes you think the school isn’t safe and it kind of gives me an uneasy feeling,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one who didn’t know about the proposal. Our original report was the first time the school board had even heard about it even though the PD says the school district agreed to pay half the cost.
After we broke the news, a school employee approached the board at it’s latest meeting saying it is an important issue that the public should have a say in.
At the same meeting, the board asked for the police department to provide more information but behind closed doors.
We talked to school board president Matt Sagsveen.
“This is my ninth year and I can only think of one other time where the SRO’s work with the administration to talk about changes to the security plan and in that case I think the school board president was brought into those discussions, but I don’t remember the issues being presented to the board,” he said.
We reached out to interim superintendent Jim Haussler.
A district representative told us he “feels he’s done enough interviews on the topic.”
Sagsveen says this isn’t a subject that would normally involve the public.
“We don’t like to lay out all of our security plans for the public. That’s why it is a security plan. Its confidential,” he said.
But he says parents do have the right to weigh in.
“Since we haven’t fully implemented that plan yet, we are providing that opportunity,” Sagsveen said.
Even though Pederson sees flaws with the plan, she wants to see the discussion take place.
“They’re trying to make change in our community and even though some people may not agree with it, at least they are taking steps,” she said.
There is another school board meeting on Monday at 5:15. Sagsveen said, if the board decides to address the concerns raised at the last meeting, it will be at that meeting.