Guest column: Making South Dakota Schools Safer by Sen. Brent “B.R.” Hoffman

Making South Dakota Schools Safer
by Sen. Brent “B.R.” Hoffman

School safety isn’t one of the more popular topics of discussion in the storied hallways of the state capital.  It’s an uncomfortable problem that lacks obvious, cookie-cutter solutions, and nobody wants to talk about school shootings.  But if we’re to make our schools safer, we must think about the unthinkable.

Since the year 2000, there have been nearly 500 documented school shootings in America.  These shootings have become ever more common, ranging from isolated incidents to horrific mass murders, such as the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, where a lone gunman took the lives of 20 first-graders before ending his own.  These incidents occur in big cities and small towns, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, and in so-called red states and blue states.

Unfortunately, there has not been a strong, nationwide effort to prevent or respond to the next one.  A study by the American Legislative Exchange Council revealed “fewer than one-third of states have given any direction to local schools regarding solutions for securing their facilities that are based on experience, proven technology or best practices.”  While states that have experienced mass shootings have implemented stronger school safety laws, the majority of states remain unprepared for this very real threat.
Here in glorious, freedom-loving South Dakota, it’s tempting to think something like a school shooting can’t or won’t happen here.  That is wrong thinking.  While our state hasn’t experienced a mass shooting (there have been seven school shootings in our history), it’s impossible to predict the location, source, motivations or tactics of the next incident.  We can and should pray for our children’s safety, but we must also prepare for their safety.

As it stands, our school districts vary widely in resources, capabilities, facilities and training.  Many have proactively upgraded facilities and procedures, but only about 35% of schools have full control of access points, a panic button, an emergency operations plan and the means to implement it.  Less than 25% of our schools have a school resource officer or sentinel readily available to respond to a violent threat.  We can do better.  We must do better.

Since this past summer, a small team of educators, legislators and law enforcement have been working on a proposal to improve school safety.  Our draft bill incorporates best practices such as facility requirements and a security grant and stipend program.  We’re confident this proposal can dramatically improve our school safety posture, but it will not be easy or convenient.  There will be opposition.  It will cost money.

Within the next few weeks, we hope to fine-tune and release the draft language for this bill, titled “An Act to establish and modify provisions related to school safety.”  We humbly ask for your support or your suggestions to improve it.  For our schools.  For our kids.


The author served a career in the military, surviving the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.  He’s a published author, occasional newspaper columnist and currently serves as a state senator for District 9 in glorious South Dakota.

13 thoughts on “Guest column: Making South Dakota Schools Safer by Sen. Brent “B.R.” Hoffman”

  1. I am for eliminating hunger, child abuse, rape, rabies, and cancer.

    This sanctimonious virtue signaler can’t leave the legislature fast enough.

    1. Wow, this is why good people won’t run for office. I thought the article made some good points.

  2. 8:57, but you’re okay with school shootings? That’s what his post was about – improving school security to fight back against crazy peopl ein the world who would harm our children.

    Instead of vitriol, why not add something constructive?

  3. Step 1: Secure the entire K12 budget, divvy it up and pay it out tax free to parents of school aged children with retroactive payments to home schooling families who have met educational performance standards.

    Step 2: Stand up to the medical industry by promoting highest quality food and water production standards, moving to localized and regionalized production with incentives for parents who structure their childrens’ curriculums around regionalized and localized production of all goods and services necessary for survival and “thrival”.

    Step 3: Fully fund a pseudononymous privacy certified social network immediately aimed at education linking parents with contract-to-hire educators as needed for prices negotiated between parents and educators, tax free. No certifications required to teach. Let the market qualify and correct.

    Step 4: Invest heavily in automation economy using available technology (design software + robotics + 3D printing) making an inventory of tools and educational resources available, but make sure to obliterate the line between “educational” and “real world production”. Experience is the best teacher, and every project should have the potential to create real world value.

    You don’t need to keep an alligator safe. You just need to let it out of the cage and get the hell out of the way.

    Problem solved.

    1. indeed. we’re already at a process which has produced many fine education outcomes – not without its systemic problems – but the security effort mandated by the reality of random school shootings. how to improve outcomes while imposing a layer of b-s for security is the question. but of course some of us should feel free to exploit the fear for complete overhaul of things that aren’t broken.

      1. “Things that aren’t broken.”

        Remainds me of public statements made two weeks ago by the CIA about the security of Israel’s boarder.

        Security might be b-s to you, but to others who drop off thier children everyday to school and worry about thier safety, the concern is very real — and at very least, worth the public debate.

        1. security is needed, obviously. the extra layer of security implementation, where it detracts from classroom outcomes, is where i employ the term ‘b-s’. by ‘b-s’ I don’t mean it’s false – i mean it’s only needed because we have bad actors whose drive to act out with evil makes it all necessary.

        2. “things that aren’t broken” referred to a different post which proposed to solve the issue of school security by shoving everyone to home school and divvy up all school funding into individual home vouchers. let’s not do that.
          so bite me.

  4. How about he use real numbers:

    For instance, “25% of our schools have a school resource officer or sentinel readily available.” What this virtue signaling liar doesn’t tell you is what percentage of South Dakota students have this situation.

    It is likely over half our counties have more schools than they have law enforcement officers (county sheriff/deputies and local police). Of course, it doesn’t make sense to double law enforcement in these counties so each school can have a resource officer. But, he makes it sound like not having it means someone is derelict and he has to save the day.

    It has become par for the course for politicians to use misleading statistics to make their virtue signaling opportunity sound more serious than it is. And this Hoffman is as bad as it is. Every issue he has taken the lead on he has virtue signaled and used hyperbole as if he is our savior. Sorry, I have a Savior and you ain’t him.

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