Last month North Dakotans were invited by our Department of Public Instruction Superintendent, Kirsten Baesler, to attend one of six “listening forums” held across the state on school safety. The meetings were “organized by the Department of Public Instruction, the North Dakota School Boards Association, the state Council of Educational Leaders, North Dakota United, North Dakota Small Organized Schools, the state Association of Counties, the Highway Patrol, the state departments of human services and emergency services, and the governor’s office.” Their stated purpose was to “give North Dakotans an opportunity to voice their opinions about school safety, and offer suggestions about any improvements that may be needed.”
Forgive me for being a skeptic, but just how interested is Baesler and her cohorts in the opinions and suggestions of many North Dakotans when it comes to the issue of school safety?
Take, for example, this article from North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta. He makes it clear that he’s not interested in the idea of local school districts making the decision to arm teachers— the very people who are most likely to stand between a lunatic with a gun and the very students they’re supposed to protect. According to Archuleta, NDU “stands ready to join the discussion” on school safety… so long as that discussion doesn’t involve teachers with guns as an option.
Not even two weeks prior to extending her invitation to attend the forums, Baesler was lauding North Dakota for its reputation of safe public schools in the aftermath of a report that says we have no “persistently dangerous” schools in our borders. But what exactly is a persistently dangerous school? According to DPI’s press release:
“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.”
Okay, but what is the definition of a “violent criminal offense”? Again, according to DPI’s press release:
“A violent criminal offense is defined as murder or manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery or gross sexual imposition.”
Fair enough. But let’s not rest on our laurels here. Not only is it unlikely that any school in North Dakota would meet such a standard, but the definition clearly illustrates that not even a mass shooting would cause a school to be classified as “persistently dangerous”.
The idea that school districts should be able to set policies in regards to arming teachers is a recognition that past records of safety mean nothing once a madman breeches other security measures in an effort to wreak havoc on people. Why the likes of Nick Archuleta and Kirsten Baesler can’t grasp that is mind-boggling.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m an admitted skeptic. It seems Baesler and her cronies want to control the discussion of just how far North Dakota schools can go when it comes to safety measures. And when it comes to Baesler herself, it appears she’s pretty satisfied with the state’s “reputation for safe public schools”. Which makes me wonder just how genuine the effort to listen really is?