No surprise I haven’t yet received written answers from Fargo Public Schools to the three questions I posed in emails to Jeff Schatz, Fargo Public Schools superintendent, and Todd Bertsch, principal at Fargo South High.
- Is it true that students will be disciplined for holding placards or signs on school grounds about gun violence in schools?
- Is it true that students will be disciplined for chanting slogans on school grounds related to gun violence in schools?
- Is it true that Fargo South students will not “be allowed” to walk out at 10 am on March 14, like students in the rest of the nation, that instead they only “will be allowed” to do so at 1 pm on March 14?
No one wants to be in writing saying anything that might tie the school system into any sort of promise or liability. Disappointed, but not surprised.
What I did receive was a call from Principal Bertsch. This is likely to be the only response I get.
We had an amicable conversation that lasted about 10 minutes. Here’s the gist:
Fargo South High School administrators will work with students to ensure that, whatever happens on March 14, student safety is the top priority.
Fargo South High School administrators have not yet decided what will happen if kids walk out at a time other than 1 p.m., when they’ve said it will be OK for the students to do so.
Fargo South High School administrators have not yet decided what will happen if kids display placards protesting gun violence in schools.
Principal Bertsch said the school will not allow anything that the administration interprets as “disruptive” according to school policy and “…what it means to be a Fargo South Bruin,” which, if I understand his explanation, essentially is demonstrating strong character. I said that leaves a wide-open swath for interpretation. He didn’t argue the point, but reiterated that nothing has been discussed or decided along those lines yet.
Same goes for chanting slogans about gun violence in schools.
He said no one wants this to turn into some sort of “big political situation.” I responded that, like it or not, this is already a big political situation.
Regarding the 1 p.m. time rather than the 10 a.m. time that students across the rest of the country will protest, he said there is a previously scheduled career fair, and he doesn’t want to see that event, which includes 90 or so members of the business community giving their time and expertise to students, disrupted. Time is extremely valuable for many of those professionals, he said.
I understood where he was coming from, I said, but I’m not as concerned about those professionals’ time as I am about children being murdered in their schools and their peers’ rights to peacefully voice their thoughts and opinions about that situation.
Principal Bertsch backpedaled a bit there, saying it wasn’t about those professionals’ time but the kids’ safety if and when a protest occurs.
Finally, he assured me a communication about all of this will be going out to students and parents once decisions are made.
Principal Bertsch pointed out Fargo South High and Fargo Public Schools are between a rock and a hard place. If they say kids can’t participate in the National School Walkout without being disciplined, they’re not being sensitive or will be accused of infringing on someone’s rights. But if they say it’s O.K., and one bad apple does something that triggers violence, then they are responsible.
I agree with him on that. It’s not a scenario I’d like to find myself in. But then again, I’m not a public servant.
I appreciated Principal Bertsch’s phone call. From my perspective, it didn’t clarify much but at least he listened to my concerns about a lack of clarity regarding where FPS stands and what actions it might or might not take if/when students walk out.
But I’ll also say this: I’m anxiously awaiting the communication he mentioned. My hope is it’s not as vague as what we’ve already seen.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter what Fargo South High or Fargo Public Schools will or will not try to do to students who choose to exercise their 1st Amendment rights on March 14.
I think my friend, Paddy McLaughlin, said it best in response to my post about this on Facebook yesterday:
“When you have the courage and conviction to protest anything, you go into it knowingly breaking rules and ready to face the fallout. Whether its about war, race, human rights, the environment, ya just do it. It’s called activism and it builds your soul.”
We could all use a little soul building, I’d say.
#Enough #NeverAgain #SaveOurChildren #NRANoWay