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Calling it a 'disruption' to education, Bemidji superintendent cancels walkout event against gun violence

BEMIDJI—A school walkout to protest gun violence has been canceled.

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess said he didn't support a Bemidji High School teacher's call for students and faculty to leave class next month to protest school shootings, and the teacher told the Pioneer the event has been canceled.

"We certainly agree on the need to address gun violence and school safety," Hess said, speaking on behalf of himself and Brian Stefanich, the high school's principal. "However, this does not give anyone the right to disrupt the educational setting. We do not support any type of disruption to a student's education."

English teacher Gina Marie Bernard called for a "Women's March Youth EMPOWER" walkout at the high school next month to protest mass shootings nationwide. The walkout would have been part of a series of highly publicized events organized across the country in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

District staff are weighing other options, which include a plan to speak to students about gun violence during homeroom on March 14, when the walkout was planned, or to meet at the school's flagpole before school.

The walkout's Facebook page was taken down Tuesday evening.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

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