State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said North Dakota’s reputation for safe public schools has been affirmed by a recent report that the state has no “persistently dangerous” schools within its borders.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education requires states to determine if they have any persistently dangerous schools, notify parents about the designation, and offer students an opportunity to transfer to another public school. North Dakota has never had a school labeled as persistently dangerous, Baesler said.
“Our school teachers and administrators work hard to provide a safe learning environment for our students,” Baesler said. “Our North Dakota families and students also deserve credit for keeping our schools safe.”
Baesler has successfully advocated for a number of initiatives that are intended to maintain and strengthen the safety record of North Dakota schools.
Every two years, elementary, middle and high school teachers and administrators must get eight hours of professional development training on youth behavioral health, including training on suicide prevention, bullying and trauma. The NDDPI and the Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative offer training to schools on the effects of trauma on student behavior and learning.
North Dakota schools must have safety plans and regular assessments of potential threats, and the NDDPI recently administered a grant program, funded by the North Dakota Legislature, which offered school districts aid in improving building security and safety.
Baesler and other education, emergency services and law enforcement partners are planning a series of public meetings across North Dakota in the next few months to listen to public comment on how to improve school safety.
North Dakota defines an elementary or secondary school as persistently dangerous if two criteria are met: The school has had a gun violation or a violent criminal offense committed on school property during each of the last three years, and if the school expelled a certain number of students in two of the previous three years for violence or weapons offenses.
A violent criminal offense is defined as murder or manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery or gross sexual imposition. Baesler said the “persistently dangerous” definitions were drafted with the help of North Dakota school administrators and other Department of Public Instruction partners.
If a school is identified as persistently dangerous, parents of students in the school must be informed, and students given the chance to transfer to another school. The dangerous school also must develop a plan to correct its shortcomings by Aug. 1, in time for it to be put into effect for the next school year.