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Patrick Springer, Published October 12 2012

School resumes with counseling after student shot

FAIRMOUNT, N.D. – A few students stayed home on Friday and counseling was available to the student body one day after a freshman student shot himself in a classroom here.

“Our counselor has been meeting students nonstop,” said Ron Stahlecker, superintendent of Fairmount Public School, which has 112 students.

The first priority for individual counseling was given to students who were in the classroom when the student walked to the front of the room and shot himself on one side of his face Thursday morning.

Group counseling sessions, with help from five or six area school counselors, were given to other high school students.

“The day has gone pretty well,” Stahlecker said. “I’m really happy that we had school and were able to provide the kids with expertise.”

A relative told school administrators that the freshman, whom school officials and law enforcement officers did not identify, is doing well and apparently will not require surgery, he said.

“Knowing that he’s doing well really helps us,” Stahlecker said.

But it likely will be an extended time before the student returns to school because of a strict policy on firearms and the need for counseling.

Fairmount Public School policy provides for a minimum expulsion of a year for bringing a firearm to school, but Stahlecker said the ultimate disciplinary decision rests with the school board.

“The most important thing now is for him to get healthy,” he said.

Although concerned for the student, the district cannot minimize the severity of the danger posed by bringing a loaded gun to school and firing a shot.

“We can’t just ignore that it happened,” Stahlecker said.

Ten students missed school Friday, roughly double the usual five or six who are away. One mother of three elementary school children said she didn’t feel comfortable having her children back Friday, but would send them back Monday, he said.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the shooting to determine how the student got the gun and why he shot himself.

Students told reporters Thursday that the student recently had broken up with a girlfriend, and had handed her a note before going to the head of the class and telling the teacher, “I’m sorry,” and then shooting himself.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522