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Cannon Falls dance coach loses job after pop gun hazing incident

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The head coach of one of the most successful dance teams in the state is out of a job after officials say an overnight team building exercise turned into a hazing incident, which broke district rules.

The Cannon Falls school board voted Monday not to renew a contract with Madi Salisbury, the head coach of the Bomber Dance Team, because of an incident on July 25 at the high school auditorium, reports say.

Salisbury said the plan was to turn the lights out, play scary music and have the upperclassmen jump out and scare the younger dancers. But a staff member, without Salisbury's knowledge, brought in pop guns, which some students heard and thought were real guns, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports.

Some of the students on the 53-member team sought counseling after the incident, FOX 9 reports.

Cannon Falls Schools Superintendent Beth Giese told the Rochester Post Bulletin that the school takes its weapons policy and the Minnesota State High School League's guidelines seriously.

"Cannon Falls Schools takes our student safety very seriously. This was a tough decision for the administrative team and our school board," Giese told BringMeTheNews via email Tuesday.

More than 100 people attended Monday's two-hour meeting to show their support for Salisbury, who was set to begin her fourth year as coach of the Bomber Dance Team. In the last 11 years, the team has won six state titles and finished runner-up four times, among other notable achievements, according to the team's website.

"We, as a team, know it is not a situation to be taken lightly," Maddie Moskal, a Cannon Falls senior who addressed the school board as the spokeswoman for the dance team, told FOX 9. "We understand the difficult situation we are all in, and are sensitive to the subject of school violence. We also know acknowledging mistakes and learning from them – and being given second chances should not be taken for granted."

Erin Kruesi, who is a former coach of the Bomber Dance Team and also runs Minnesota High School Dance Team Online, wrote in an editorial on the website about the incident, describing what she has heard from dancers and other coaches. In the piece, she also questions why Salisbury was fired without having prior knowledge of the incident, noting this could happen to any coach.

The school's athletic director plans to post the job opening Tuesday – the dance seasons starts in late October. Salisbury has 15 days to appeal the decision, FOX 9 says.

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