Shaw: Fargo schools must do better – InForum

I have received lots of feedback about my story about Fargo and West Fargo teachers resigning in record numbers. In a rarity, none of it was negative. Many people were shocked and upset about the complaints of horrible student behavior in the schools. I also heard from some current Fargo teachers whom I never met, who told me of their own horror stories.

One of them wrote, “The kids are disrespectful, swearing at teachers, name-calling both teachers and their peers. Fights every day. Vaping and other drug use in the bathrooms. In-school truancy —meaning the kids come to school but don’t go to class… Kids talk during class and interrupt learning for others. They are constantly on their phones and social media despite the fact that it is against school policy. Dress code is nonexistent… Parents are disengaged. ADM (Administration) lacks a backbone.

“Not all kids behave in this manner, but enough do which is unfair to the kids who are trying to learn … Staff have been threatened, harassed, verbally attacked and much worse with not much support or backing from the district … It is just a question of time before Fargo makes the news as a school shooting.”

Another teacher wrote, “As a teacher, I thank you for continuing to keep the public aware of how dire the current situation is in our schools. I wish I could publicly comment, but cannot as I could be terminated for speaking negatively about Fargo schools.”

It’s time to address the situation. First, Fargo School District leaders need to publicly acknowledge the problem. It’s outrageous that talented teachers are leaving the district because of ugly behavior from their students. It’s also unacceptable that this behavior is taking place. If the district doesn’t acknowledge the problem, then it won’t be fixed.

Second, there needs to be tougher consequences. When students badly misbehave they should automatically be sent to the school office and their parents should be called. Bad-behaving students should be disciplined with lengthy detention, suspensions, or if necessary, expulsions. Those students should also be suspended from extracurricular activities, including sports.

Third, adopt a dress code. No more students coming into class wearing hoods, caps and headphones. Teachers need to be able to see their students.

Fourth, no student cell phones in the classrooms. When students come to school, they should put their phones in their lockers and keep them there the entire school day. Currently, those phones are more of a distraction. If there is a family emergency, parents can call the school office to track down their children.

Fifth, drop the “proficient” grading system for sixth graders. Students will be much more motivated to behave and do their schoolwork if they receive letter grades.

Sixth, parents need to believe and support the teachers. They should also get tougher with their misbehaving kids. Taking away their phones for a while or grounding them are good options.

One school district leader says I might have overblown the situation. However, just one classroom with brutal behavior from students, or one teacher who quits because of it, is one too many.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum’s editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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