School Safety & Security at West Fargo Public Schools
Earlier today, December 7, 2021, West Fargo Public Schools and the West Fargo Police Department held a joint press conference on the topic of school safety. This community conversation was precipitated by the threat of school violence directed at Cheney Middle School (CMS) last evening that resulted in all CMS students learning virtually from home today.
In addition to the serious content of this message, we want to start with gratitude for two groups of people that have helped get us to where we are this evening:
- Our local first responder agencies. District administration has been in communication with the WF Police Dept. since 9:30PM on Monday. The support and perspective that they provide to WFPS in situations like this is invaluable. We are fortunate to have such wonderful working relationships with every first responder entity in our district, which is beneficial every day, but especially in situations like what we are currently faced with. It means a lot to the district to have the PD’s support of the decisions that we make regarding school safety.
- Our students. Our schools are communities in and of themselves, with their own culture, traditions, and values. We must remember to celebrate the positive culture that the students and staff are building at CMS that encouraged students to speak up when they saw someone threatening their school community.
Attending or working in a school that receives a threat is stressful and disruptive for everyone. When threats like this are made, it is important to remember that schools are still statistically one of the safest places to be, according to the FBI and the National Institute of Justice. Additionally, West Fargo Public Schools’ buildings are safe. The North Dakota Department of Public instruction tracks ‘persistently dangerous’ schools using a standardized scoring rubric - there are no WFPS schools considered persistently dangerous.
The West Fargo Police Department has informed us that significant progress has been made on their investigation into the threat of violence posted anonymously in a Snapchat group yesterday. As the agency responsible for this investigation, details about this progress will be publicly provided through a press release issued by the West Fargo Police Department this evening. After receiving their latest update, we have made the decision to return Cheney Middle School students to onsite learning starting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 8. We understand that students and staff will need reassurance that school is a safe place to be, and we are all committed to doing our part to ensure everyone feels safe while at school. WFPS often utilizes resources from the National Association of School Psychologists; they recommend that families and educators focus on the following as coping/processing strategies after a threat of violence: reaffirming safety, making time to talk, reviewing safety procedures, monitoring students’ emotional state, and maintaining a normal routine with students.
Finally, we want our entire school community to know that WFPS does not take these threats lightly. Even when a threat is found to be false, the student(s) responsible will be held accountable for their actions by both the school district and law enforcement.
We appreciate the support, flexibility, and concern shown by parents and staff across the district today for what was happening at Cheney. Even though we’re the second largest district in the state of ND, we still have that small-town connection and desire to look out for the best interests of everyone in our community.