BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction will hold a hearing next week on proposed rules for a new state law that will allow schools to have an armed staff member or volunteer.
Earlier this year, the state Legislature and Republican Gov. Doug Burgum approved the law, which establishes a program that gives schools the option to apply for a designated armed staff member or volunteer. The program is geared toward rural schools that are located far from traditional emergency responders, but any school in the state can apply, department spokesman Dale Wetzel said.
The proposed rules outline extensive firearm and first aid training requirements for an "armed first responder" similar to what a law enforcement officer might undergo. The armed staff members or volunteers would also need to complete a physical and mental health examination and be at least 21 years old.
The armed staff member could not be a teacher or someone who supervises children and must conceal the weapon on school premises, according to the law. Wetzel said a school principal, administrator, custodian or food service worker could be eligible.
The proposed rules lay out a long process for schools looking to apply for an armed staff member. First, the school administrators and overseeing school board would have to submit a letter declaring their intent to participate in the program to State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler. Then, the school must identify the proposed armed staff member and submit a highly detailed plan for Baesler's consideration. The plan must also be approved by local law enforcement and the state Department of Emergency Services' Homeland Security Division.
Both public and private schools are eligible to apply for the program. Wetzel said he's not sure how popular the program will be, but he mentioned that South Dakota has a similar one that has not received a lot of interest from schools.
The public hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 9, at the state Capitol building. The rules would also have to clear the Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee and the attorney general's office before going into effect.
Residents who would like to comment on the proposed rules but cannot attend Monday's hearing, can contact the department's Jim Upgren by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 701-328-2244.