School discipline issues at forefront after Fargo teacher's assistant attacked by student
FARGO — City and state education leaders say there is currently no single approach to addressing school discipline issues after a recent attack on a teacher's assistant in a Fargo middle school.
District spokesperson AnnMarie Campbell confirmed that a student at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School assaulted a paraprofessional Monday, April 29, and that the resulting injuries required medical attention. She did not know how severe the injuries were.
The student will be allowed back at the school, Campbell said.
Superintendent of Fargo Public Schools Rupak Gandhi acknowledges that discipline is an issue in schools, but that it can be difficult to apply it uniformly to every student.
“Although we have consistent practices, we need to look at the unique needs of every child,” Gandhi said. “I can't sit here and say that we have the solution that's going to help prevent it across the board . . . what I can say is that we're committed to looking for the solution."
The assault happened as the Fargo Education Association debates a contract that includes language about teacher safety. The Forum previously reported that a survey was shared Monday, April 29, during contract talks between the school board and the Fargo Education Association union that indicated the majority of teachers surveyed in the district were frightened in the classroom.
Teacher negotiator David Marquardt presented a survey of around 850 Fargo teachers that found 70% were intimidated or fearful in their classrooms. About half said they had been "hurt" in their classrooms, with others reporting they were physically injured and missed one to even 10 days of work or suffered mental trauma, as did the students.
The survey also found that 63% said there were no "set procedures" in their classrooms when incidents occur, with 76% saying there was no consistency in procedures. Also, 81% said they had been in a lockdown in the classroom that took away educational time.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said part of that solution may come from research and legislation to push for a uniform system of reporting for violent incidents like the one reported at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School.
“We can understand exactly how many times these destructive issues are happening, how many injuries are occurring, how many times classrooms need to be cleared,” Baesler said.
Baesler and Gandhi both say there's no one-size-fits-all approach to education and discipline in a school setting, but Baesler said that would be the first step in seeing real change.
“We need to have a handle on it,” Baesler said. “We need to know exactly what we're dealing with so our legislators can have the facts in front of them and take some action.”
Forum reporter Barry Amundson contributed to this report.