Fargo woman speaks out one year after she says her son was mistreated in school

Published: Mar. 6, 2019 at 4:14 PM CST
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One year ago today, a little boy was handcuffed, bloodied and held in a dangerous position at his Fargo school. Since then, his mother launched an investigation into Fargo Public Schools and the state sided with her.

"March 6th is a really important date for me because of the event that happened to my song. While he was at Agassiz at the level D program, he was put into a prone restraint for a very long time," says Victoria Johnson. "He's really traumatized. And that trauma part, he'll never get over that."

Johnson says March 6th, 2018 was when she knew she had to make a stand.

"I just realized that I have to take that step and really go forward and file the state complaint. I want the equal opportunity not only for my son, but I want it for all those other students that are out there," Johnson says.

“When a parent or a district requests an investigation, they need to submit to us what the alleged violation is or are,” says Gerry Teevens, the Department of Public Instruction's Director of Special Education. “They then must also submit with that request a proposed resolution to the issue."

"We have 60 days from the date we received it to come up with a report as far as whether there was a violation or not,” Teevens continues.

Johnson's complaint said her son's placement in the Agassiz pilot program and the services he received there, violated his rights and the state agreed. Now, Fargo Public Schools has to make changes.

"If the district is in violation, they are required to do a corrective action plan regarding how they were going to address this violation -- whether it be training, compensatory education, whatever might be felt to be the best method of correction," says Teevens.

The district says changes are already underway. In a statement, Fargo schools says:

"The Fargo Public Schools is committed to training its staff and advancing its programs through a continuous improvement process. During this school year, Fargo Public Schools has provided training regarding special education processes to staff in the following areas: assistive technology, change of student placement, prior written notice and notice of meeting, manifestation determination review meetings, and other IDEA procedures. Fargo Public Schools will continue to focus on the collection of data to drive decision making for special education students.

In Fall 2018, Fargo Public Schools expanded our use of the Second Step social-emotional curriculum in all grade levels at all elementary schools. Second Step is a program rooted in social-emotional learning that helps transform schools into supportive, successful learning environments uniquely equipped to help children thrive.

In Fall 2018, jointly with regional school districts and partners, Fargo Public Schools participated in a Least Restrict Environment (LRE)-Behavior Task Force. This task force defined critical attributes necessary for all educational settings. Fargo Public Schools will continue to apply the critical attributes from the task force to improve programming for all students."

"I hope that, as time goes by, that parents will come forward because there is still things going on in our schools," Johnson says.

The Department of Public Instruction says even if the school district isn't found to have violated students' rights. They are still encouraged to take corrective actions.