Oglala Lakota County schools opt for Sentinels

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- Since 2013 state law has allowed schools to arm qualified employees. But for years only one small East River district signed up.

This year two more opted in and one of them, Oglala Lakota County, jumped in with both feet and sent four staffers off for School Sentinel training.

Two years ago the district took a long hard look at security issues and set out to make some significant changes.

Like rural schools throughout the country, law enforcement response times are a crucial concern.

"Our response time from the local police department is anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes," said district Security Director Jesse Trueblood.

And that can be an eternity in the case of a security emergency. School leaders decided to take the initiative.

"Two years ago I started as director of security for the Oglala Lakota County schools," said Trueblood. "We sat down and had a plan, a vision to make all of our schools safe. It went on from there to, well, we want to be the safest schools in South Dakota."

They improved their locks and surveillance system.

"Going back about two years ago we assessed the safety and security of our school system," said school Superintendent Dr. Anthony Fairbanks. " We looked at all the entrances and exits and hallways and security cameras."

And added new technologies including a mobile sytem that allows blood to view multiple surveillance camera feeds.

"I can monitor all five schools from my mobile app that I have here on my smart phone," he said.

And this year the district decided to arm its security officers through the state's School Sentinel program. School opened Tuesday with four armed security officers in the five building, 1,800 student system.

"Keeping our schools safe is our number one priority with training, equipment and technology and surveillance type cameras that we use now. We like to keep our schools safe," said Fairbanks.

And the district isn't standing pat. It plans to add more sentinels over time.

"Our next step is to send our principals as well as myself to the Sentinel training," said Fairbanks.