When Gun Violence Hits Close to Home

When your 11-year-old is imploring you for answers about gun violence, when she’s afraid to go to school because of a shooting threat, things get real in a hurry. We need reasonable – and absolutely necessary – gun violence laws. Right now.

The Innocence We Enjoyed is a Fairy Tale to Our Children

“Why do we have to live this way?”

The evening before, a Thursday, one of our older kids received a snap from a friend who rides the bus that takes all three of our children to and from school. It said a middle schooler next to her had just muttered, “I’m going to shoot up that school tomorrow,” apparently referring to our 11-year-old’s school.

Continue reading “When Gun Violence Hits Close to Home”

#IAmNotaDistractionFargo

It will take many voices to bring about change in the gender-biased way the Fargo Public Schools dress code is applied and enforced. Please consider lending yours.

I believe dress-code enforcement in Fargo Public Schools is gender biased (see “The Alleged “Distractees” – Not Our Daughters & Sisters – Must Change“), and that the body shaming that comes with it is detrimental to my daughters, and their sisters as well as yours.

After many years of frustration, I decided to do something about it.

Continue reading “#IAmNotaDistractionFargo”

The Alleged “Distractees” – Not Our Daughters and Sisters – Must Change

Each year, Fargo Public Schools (FPS) officials tell our daughters – sometimes explicitly, often implicitly – they will be a “distraction” to other students and teachers if they wear spaghetti-strap tops that are “too revealing,” pants that are “too tight” or skirts that are “too short.”

Gender Bias Needs to Be Removed
from Dress-Code Enforcement
in Fargo Public Schools

Each year, Fargo Public Schools (FPS) officials tell our daughters and their sisters – sometimes explicitly, often implicitly – they will be a “distraction” to other students and teachers if they wear spaghetti-strap tops that are “too revealing,” pants that are “too tight” or skirts that are “too short.”

The “too” statements are in quotation marks because they’re descriptors with relative meanings. “Too” whatever depends on who is passing judgment.

If girls wear any of these, or other undefined pieces of clothing, they “get coded.” Continue reading “The Alleged “Distractees” – Not Our Daughters and Sisters – Must Change”

#Enough #NeverAgain #ProtectOurKids

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Posted to Facebook:

Standing in solidarity with students at #FargoSouthHigh who walked out for 17 minutes of silence for the victims of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting. And asking our local, state and federal elected officials to do something meaningful to curb #gunviolence and #ProtectOurKids in their own schools. NOW is the time for you to do something, Sen. John HoevenSen. Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer. No more excuses, justifications or equivocation.  #NeverAgain #Enough

Child’s Religion

This early morning quiet / Many inches on the ground / Falling softly still, six-fifteen / Straight down, not a sound….

This early morning quiet
Many inches on the ground
Falling softly still, six-fifteen
Straight down, not a sound.

The sagging branches, wet white
Up north Dakota Territory
The way of it at thirty degrees
Another clean winter story.

Tip toe up and down
Whisper softly to each one
No school today, ice and snow
Maybe heaps before it’s done.

Really seriously can’t believe
Never happened before
Thank you, Jesus, and
Please send some more.

Snow-covered wind spinner

National School Walkout – Trading Emails with FPS Superintendent

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I was surprised to receive a response from FPS Superintendent Jeff Schatz today. Here it is, along with my response:

Continue reading “National School Walkout – Trading Emails with FPS Superintendent”

National School Walkout – FPS Response

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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

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National School Walkout – ACLU Response

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Here is the response from the ACLU to my inquiry regarding students’ rights, and possible disciplinary actions by schools, if the students participate in or do certain things during the National School Walkout on March 14.

Dear Mr. Fredricks:

Thank you for contacting the ACLU of North Dakota.  As a general rule, children may not be punished for non-disruptive political speech while in a school building (i.e., an armband protesting the Vietnam war, a t-shirt [in some cases]).  However, “disruptive” behavior is subject to the school’s disciplinary code and the students who walk out are likely to be subject to punishment for the unexcused absences.  Because of the disruption, most courts would permit a student to be punished for chanting in school or on school grounds during school hours even if the chant is political in nature.  The severity of the punishment should be dictated by the individual district’s code of conduct, but this type of political action should not be punished more harshly because of its nature.  Basically, whatever the punishment for absence and disruption is when it occurs without a political motive should be the same punishment students receive in these March walkouts.  Students should not be punished by the district for conduct that occurs off campus at events unless the event is school-sponsored.  Is the district allowing students to walk out at 1PM with no consequences (i.e. unexcused absences)?  If so, the students may want to wait.  If there are consequences either way, they do not lose much by leaving at the earlier time.

Here is the link to a blog which may help:

https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/student-speech-and-privacy/can-schools-discipline-students-protesting

Thank you.

 -The ACLU of North Dakota

 

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#Enough #NeverAgain #SaveOurChildren #NRANoWay

National School Walkout – Letter to FPS

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So far responses from Fargo Public Schools regarding how it will handle or respond to a walkout on March 14 have been vague, in my judgement. This morning I wrote the following email to Superintendent Jeff Schatz, and a similar email to Fargo South High Principal Todd Bertsch. I’ve also been trading voicemails and texts with a couple of school board members.

See related posts:
What Will Happen If My Kids Protest?
National School Walkout – ACLU Response

Dear Dr. Schatz:

I appreciate your email of a few days ago to parents regrading the steps the district takes to protect students, and I appreciate the fact that the district truly does, in fact, take those actions to protect my children. I also appreciate the fact that you addressed the National School Walkout scheduled for March 14.

However, I’m writing to request clarification regarding the Fargo Public Schools’ policies and intentions related to that event.

As you know, your statement included the following about school walkout protests:

“There is a national movement for student and staff advocacy to promote school safety, such as school walk outs.  Fargo Public Schools will not prevent nor encourage participation in such events.  However, building administrators will be working with staff and student leadership to plan for a safe environment if such activities are to occur.  Any staff member who wishes to participate in a planned activity should consult with their principal to ensure policies and procedures are followed.  We will strive to keep the school day as normal as possible and discourage any activity that creates conflict.  We are encouraging parents/guardians to speak to their students about respecting others’ viewpoints and the responsibilities associated with participating in activities that may occur.”

This is a fine start but, unfortunately, is vague. It does not address what students are hearing in schools and, subsequently, what I am hearing from my kids.

At Fargo South, they’re apparently hearing that:

Any student who walks out and holds a placard or sign protesting gun violence in schools, or anything else, on school property will be disciplined.

  • Any student who chants slogans related to gun violence in schools, or anything else, on school property will be disciplined.
  • That student only “will be allowed” to walk out at 1 p.m. due to an all-school event that’s scheduled, rather than at 10 p.m. when students across the country will walk out in solidarity against gun violence in schools.
  • I hope what I am hearing is incorrect, because like anyone else, high school students have the right to peacefully voice their opinions.

That’s why I’m asking for clear and simple answers to these questions:

  • Is it true that students will be disciplined for holding placards or signs about gun violence in schools or anything else grounds?
  • Is it true that students will be disciplined for chanting slogans related to gun violence in schools or anything else on school grounds?
  • 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?

I will be sending a similar inquiry to Fargo South Principal Bertsch, as Betsy Beaton (communications and community relations) has recommended.

Even so, I’d appreciate a response from you.

I thank you in advance to your attention to my inquiry and for everything you and the Fargo Public Schools have done and continue to do for my kids.

Sincerely,

Martin Fredricks

 

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#Enough #NeverAgain #SaveOurChildren #NRANoWay

What Will Happen If My Kids Protest?

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Unofficial word from Fargo South High School is that any student who, when participating in the National School Walkout on March 14, holds up signs expressing opinions about gun violence in schools, chants slogans or does anything else that draws attention, will be suspended.

Further, they will not be allowed to walk out at 10 a.m. in conjunction with students across the rest of the nation, but will have to wait until 1 p.m. due to an all-school event scheduled for that morning.

Continue reading “What Will Happen If My Kids Protest?”