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Badal to retire in February

Support swells for former Oakes principal

OAKES, N.D. — The community here is voicing support for former high school principal and athletic director Don Warren, who resigned Nov. 27 after an internal investigation began into incidents involving a student.

Warren also faces the possibility of criminal charges.

Three incidents involving one student are described in a memo from Superintendent Josh Johnson to Warren. Warren twice entered the home of the student, who did not show up for class, without permission. The third incident was in a classroom when Warren threatened to “drop (the student) like a bad habit” after a teacher asked Warren for assistance with unruly students. Warren also threatened to rip the student’s head off “and spit down the hole.”

While the memo did not request Warren’s resignation, the school board accepted it Nov. 27 in a short special meeting.

Oakes Police Chief Marke Roberts said Friday that he concluded an investigation into Warren’s actions and submitted the report to the Dickey County state’s attorney for possible charges. He’s not sure what charges could result.

In the meantime, a Facebook page titled “Thank You Don Warren!” was started Wednesday as a place to post messages of support and gratitude for Warren, who was high school principal in the town of about 1,800 people since 1990.

The page gathered more than 300 members by Friday night.

Janna Diggs, the parent of a high school student, said she wanted to find a way to show Warren there is support for him.

“A lot of parents were just feeling kind of helpless,” she said. “We were sad. We wanted to do something to express our appreciation for Mr. Warren and all of the years he put into the school and our students.”

On the Facebook wall are numerous posts that describe stories of a coach and principal who took time to personally get to know students and their families.

Kevin Gemar, an Oakes graduate and former athlete, said he remembers many long talks between Warren and his friends after football practice.

“I know a few kids who say if it wasn’t for Mr. Warren, they wouldn’t have graduated high school,” he said.

Wade Fossum, another Oakes graduate, said Warren was strict but fair.

“Don spent his life working for these kids, with them, trying to inspire and lead them,” Fossum said in an email to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. “He loved being able to talk about the graduating class and stand up on that day and shake the students’ hand as they were sent off into the world.”

Diggs said it is unlikely Warren could be reinstated as principal, but she does hope he can see the impact he has had on Oakes residents’ lives.

She said she plans to speak at the next school board meeting Monday.

“I just want to express appreciation for what Mr. Warren has done,” she said.

WDAY-TV contributed to this report.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and and at CBS Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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