RICHARDTON, N.D. — Kelly Peters, who resigned after being placed on administrative leave at West Fargo High School, was hired by the Richardton-Taylor School Board to be the school's new superintendent.
Peters, who was an assistant principal at West Fargo, had a physical altercation with an individual in the school that resulted in him being placed on administrative leave. Peters reportedly attempted to stop a student from leaving the school library, upon being asked by a teacher to do so. When his verbal commands were ignored, Peters grabbed the individual's arm as they walked through the commons area to the office. In a report, Peters said he called for the school resource officer for backup.
The incident was a safety issue for Peters.
"When I'm in the commons, and we have a disruption going on, and I interact with an individual, and that person tells me, 'I don't even f****** go to school here.' ... We had a safety concern for our students, our faculty and our staff," he said. "As I try to bring this individual to the office so we could discuss the matter, have the school resource officer interact with him, that's when he tried to runaway and get out of the building."
Witness statements corroborate that Peters called for a school resource officer for backup and that the individual was defiant and tried several times to pull away from Peters and the officers.
Peters has extensive training in school safety and owns 701 Safety Products, LLC, which created the Easy Lock Stop, a device aimed to deter an intruder from entering a classroom.
An investigation report into the incident by West Fargo High School Principal Jennifer Fremstad said that Peters' conduct and communications with students violated many district policies, and she recommended his contract not be renewed.
Peters' resignation was accepted by the school board March 9, 2020 and was effective June 30, the day before he started at Richardton.
"When I interviewed her at the school, they asked me about the situation, and I explained it to them," Peters said. "I said, 'you know, we're in the care-giving industry being educators, and one part of being in this industry is we protect our students — whether it's a coach protecting a student that is injured, and you don't play that student; or a counselor working with a student that's making bad choices, and you try to steer that student in another direction; or when you have a disruption in a school, and you try to protect your students from harm."
School board member Ty Dressler confirmed the board was aware of the incident but declined to comment further.
"We're excited for him to come in. He seemed really excited to take the job," Dressler said. "We're happy to have someone come in quickly and not have to go through an interim or to go a few months or longer without a superintendent, so we were very excited to find a very qualified applicant and happy that he accepted the offer."
Despite the incident, Peters received well over 200 comments on a Facebook post about his new position, including some from teachers at West Fargo.
Math teacher Cory Loveless wrote, "Congratulations! You will do great things. I will miss working with you!" Greg Borders wrote, "That is awesome! Congratulations and best of luck!!!!" Physics teacher Michelle Strand and paraprofessional Kinsi Eidenschink also congratulated him.
Prior to his time at West Fargo, Peters was an administrator at Red River High School in Grand Forks where he was named North Dakota Associate Principal of the Year by the North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals.
Peters started his 28-year teaching career in Montana.
"Richardton-Taylor has a great reputation for being a progressive school with a supportive school board and a supportive community. That really drew me out here to be a superintendent," Peters said. "I just want to bring in my experience working at both small schools and big schools, working in Montana and in North Dakota, my passion for education, my passion for students — for them to be successful."
He said he's a supporter of career and technical studies and fine arts. He's coached speech and debate as well as football.
Outgoing superintendent Brent Bautz has accepted a fourth-grade teaching position at New England School, of which he is an alum. His resignation was accepted by the school board on May 18 and was effective June 30.
Assistant principal Jennifer Jung also resigned from her position at the school.