Students write letters asking for change in Blaser’s class

Dear Mr. Dahlen and the counseling department,

My name is Ivy Mastrud and I am a freshman at Fargo North. As someone who has struggled with mental health, I understand the purpose of educating yourself and others on the topic. Right now, our district has to meet specific standards on the amount of education for core subjects. For example, every student has to take a class on english, math and science. However, according to, only 16 percent of all students are educated on mental health and that is not enough. I am writing to you to request a change in our school’s mental health education to increase that 16 percent.
My plan is to create a lesson that will be taught to students every year of school. It’s important that students get this education every year because mental health is something that affects every age group and not every other year like the education we are receiving now. Every lesson will be specific to each age group using specific examples that relate to them. For example, juniors will have information about the stress of taking big tests. Having group discussions, guest speakers, showing them resources, and avoiding statistics will make the topic seem not as scary. Pre-made discussion questions can fluctuate anywhere from what mental health looks like to them to what they had for breakfast. Bringing in guest speakers will create some excitement and change things up. As a student, I know that my classmates get really excited when a chatty, outgoing, bold guest speaker comes in. Creating a student-ran committee who would put their input on the lessons would be very important. Although staff will be the ones teaching them, ultimately the curriculum has to be designed for students. The goal of these lessons is to break the stigma of the topic of mental health and to show students they are not alone in their troubles.
Another goal would be to put the topic of mental health into other classes that wouldn’t normally focus on mental health. For example, in Phy-Ed students could do yoga and learn about breathing techniques. According to, practicing yoga reduces exaggerated stress and decreases various anxieties and depression. In English classes, we could read studies on the topic and write informational texts about it. Incorporating mental health into core classes will show students that it’s an okay subject to talk about.
I know some parents might oppose this plan. They might think mental health isn’t that important or you shouldn’t be learning about it in school, but all students should be educated on this topic. My plan would allow parents to excuse their students from the lesson with no repercussions. To have parents sign off, we could send a print out to elementary students through freshman year to give to parents that would need to be back by a certain date. I think that by the time students get to freshman year it should be a required course for them to take. With 1 in 5 students struggling with mental health or behavioral issues, there is no reason to not be educated on the topic. I understand it can be a sensitive topic but it’s better to come out about things like that than be silent.
Thank you for your time and all that you do for the district. I know that together we can create a healthier school environment for all.

Ivy Mastrud

Dear Rupak Ghandi,

My name is Skye Schmaltz and I am a student that lost someone to mental health and struggles with mental health myself. I am writing to you today to address the lack of mental health being talked about and shared in our school district and I am requesting it being normally taught at our schools. I am not talking about putting more cheesy posters around the school or having another week-long lesson in health about mental health. We need actual classes and actual outlets to help our students struggling. Not everyone struggles with mental illness but everyone should be well educated on it, not everyone has a job using math but we are still taught it in school everyday.
When students struggle with mental health it directly affects their performance in school. COVID has had a huge negative impact on teens’ mental health. According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at Michigan Medicine, a national poll shows that 46 percent of parents say their teen had shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Mental health problems have been rapidly increasing in teens for years, a global pandemic has worsened the problem. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services up to 60% of students do not receive the treatment they need due to stigma and lack of access to services. Considering that most mental illnesses happen in your teen years it’s the best time to make students aware of it and its impact. Not everyone has access to medication or therapy, whether it’s because they can’t financially or their household isn’t supportive of it. It is essential that students struggling get help and know that they are not alone.
When considering mental health classes and outlets highschool is the perfect age to have them. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50 percent of lifetime mental illness cases begin by age 14. Considering that most mental illnesses begin at this age it’s the best time to make students aware of it and its impact. By allowing mental health courses at school it will not only help teens understand their mental health better, but also help teens who don’t struggle with mental illness become more educated on the topic. Even if you are not directly affected by mental illnesses your mom, dad, friends, or future children could struggle. Everyone should know how to support those they love. When people are struggling with mental illnesses they feel alone and it is extremely hard for them to open up to people. By allowing classes they could learn things like coping skills and how to benefit themself instead of harm themself.
Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses really affect how you perform in school. It causes you to have harder times concentrating, focusing, having motivation and drive to do your work to your best effort. There have been a countless amount of times I didn’t have the motivation to finish an assignment so I either didn’t do it or did it just to finish it and not nearly to the best of my abilities. There have been many times I have cheated or considered cheating on a test because the night before I had no motivation to study for it. Students deserve a lot of credit, having to juggle school, sports, family, friends and for some mental health as well. Going to school and sports everyday while having the stress of a global pandemic is extremely overwhelming. Having mental classes for students will greatly benefit them. Mental health
should never be something you are ashamed of or embarrassed about. Having good mental health is so important, especially in our circumstances, I hope this is highly considered among the school board.

Skye Schmaltz

Dear Representative Kelly Armstrong,

My name is Betsy Murchie and I am a 10th grader at North High School in Fargo, North Dakota. I am writing to you today to address the bill The Humane Cosmetics Act proposed to the Senate by Senators Rob Portman, Martha McSally, Cory Booker, and Sheldon Whitehouse on Monday, November 18th 2019. The bill is “To prohibit the use of animal testing for cosmetics and the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.”
The testing of cosmetic products on animals is an inhumane act and it affects us all as U.S. Citizens seeing as cosmetic products are not just makeup. According to the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) “A cosmetic is any product “intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed, or introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” Every year over 100 million animals including mice, rats, frogs, cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds experience physical and mental torture due to scientific practices most animals that submitted for testing are killed in laboratories for biology lessons, medical training, curiosity driven experiments, and chemical, dug, food, and cosmetic testing in the U.S alone.
One of the biggest disadvantages identified in animal testing is the harming, confinement and infliction of pain. During the experiments, the animals used are forced to inhale or swallow vast amounts of test substances, which are often toxic and poisonous. While animal testing is crucial to essure that vaccines are safe, animals are used in the experiments and not human beings. This means that any results derived from the tests might or might not be useful to the humans. Makeup companies such as Nars, L’oreal, MAC, Benefit, Maybelline, Revlon, Chanel, Sephora. When you buy those products you are paying for innocent animals to be killed in the name of beauty. Animal testing is also used on a multitude of everyday household products such as, cleaners, food additives, pharmaceuticals, and industrial/agro chemicals. Things we use everyday such as, Clorox, Colgate, Crest, Dawn, Dove, Downy, Fabreeze, Old Spice, and Oral B all test their products on animals.
One might argue that animals are appropriate test subjects because they are similar to human beings in many ways, that is true, we are similar to them in the fact that we are all descended from the same common ancestor, we share organs such as heart, kidneys, lungs, etc. that function in essentially the same way with the help of a bloodstream and central nervous system. But the anatomic, metabolic, and cellular differences between animals and people make animals poor models for human beings. Paul Furlong, Professor of Clinical Neuroimaging at Aston University in the UK, states that “it’s very hard to create an animal model that even equates closely to what we’re trying to achieve in the human.” Thomas Hartung, Professor of evidence-based toxicology at Johns Hopkins University here in the US, argues for alternatives to animal testing because “we are not 70 kg rats.”
In conclusion, animal testing should not be allowed as it causes suffering to the subjects. Its benefits to humans have not been proven and most benefits derived from the experiments could be produced by other means. With your help I believe that we can turn this bill into a new law and help to end the suffering of innocent animals at the hands of beauty.

Betsy Murchie