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West Fargo Public Schools takes a new approach to discipline

The school district is going with an approach they hope benefits the community going into the future.

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A sign for West Fargo Public Schools inside their High School.
Ben Morris / WDAY-TV

WEST FARGO — The MTSS, or Multi-Tier Support System, hopes to support students who may run into trouble as opposed to punishing them.

School leaders have taken the issue head-on and hope support sessions and interventions will be a better alternative to traditional punishment in school.

The mediators for these sessions are called Restorative Practice Leaders. Their job requires them to look into why students' learning and behavior may be impacted, while also trying to help them feel a sense of belonging, safety and accountability.

For those scratching their head as to how that works, West Fargo High School's Restorative Practice Leader, one of three in the district, offered a recent example from an incident between two students.

"There were threats, there was some harassment, and then it even began to become physical," said Jake Snyder, West Fargo High's Restorative Practice Leader. "(We were) able to sit down with each student individually, and then together in a mediation. Through that process, they were able to understand some of the core things that were going on in each other's lives."

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He said in this instance, they were able to find forgiveness and move on with their learning careers.

These are skills and experiences school leaders hope students take with them beyond high school graduation.

"When they graduate, they can help create communities that care about, support one another, hold each other accountable in their workplaces, in their neighborhoods and their universities. That will be a ripple effect will continue to strengthen our community here and outside these walls as well," said West Fargo High School Assistant Principal Rachel Bachmeier.

West Fargo Public Schools has paid for the new positions through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

If they like what they see, they will move toward additional funding to keep the program going.

Ben Morris joined WDAY in June of 2021 as a news reporter. He grew up in southern New Hampshire, before he moved to Fargo. He majored in media communications and minored in marketing at the University of Toledo in Ohio.
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