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School safety forum held in Rugby

By Staff | Sep 7, 2018

Bryce Berginski/PCT Valerie Fischer, of the N.D. Department of Public Instruction, answers a question from an audience member at a School Safety listening forum in Rugby.

A community listening forum on school safety was held last week in the Tilman Hovland Auditorium at Rugby High School.

The discussion was led by Valerie Fischer, Safe & Healthy Schools director for the N.D. Department of Public Instruction. Fischer said the goal of the forum was to give information as well as to listen to attendees’ solutions, suggestions and concerns.

Fischer said the department believes schools are “one of the safest places” for students, and also said that with drills run the state hasn’t seen a fire death in schools since 1957.

Fischer said one program the NDDPI can provide, on request, to schools are Emergency Operation Planning Assessments. The DPI points out concerns to requesting schools and information provided in the assessments is confidential.

Nick Archuleta, of N.D. United a public employees union said that N.D. United polled union members and the public. The polls found that a majority of respondents were against arming teachers, and the same number were in favor of school resource officers officers carrying police equipment and are trained to work with young people and prevent incidents. Archuleta said there were issues other than protection from school shooters to address, including kids acting out in schools and shortages of qualified counselors and social workers.

Troy Hischer, northeast region commander for the N.D. Highway Patrol, spoke on how the NDHP is trained in certain situations. Hischer said in the area the NDHP’s response would be to support the sheriff and chief of police.

Pierce County State’s Attorney Galen Mack said increases in chemical dependency issues is a major concern.

“We need to have more treatment options in rural North Dakota,” said Mack.

Fischer said one program being tried in Mandan is the “Handle With Care” program, which deals with student engagement and trusted adult relationships. The program details which students are deemed struggling. Fischer said that while it is still early, the program has been showing good successes.

Archuleta discussed a program started in Minnesota called “community schools” schools that offer wraparound behavioral health services for students and GED completion and parenting classes for adults.

RHS Guidance Counselor Julie Sjol questioned the community schools, particularly how parents got into them. Archuleta said assessments are done first to determine whether services are needed. One attendee said that while parents coming in was a “good idea”, some parents who had bad experiences while in school may not come.

The NDDPI partnered in the forums with various agencies, including the N.D. Highway Patrol, N.D. Council of Educational Leaders, N.D. School Boards Association, N.D. Association of Counties and the Department of Homeland Security.

Rugby was the sixth of six stops for the forums. School safety forums were also held in Bismarck, Dickinson, Williston, Fargo and Valley City.

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