What was supposed to be a night of fun and team-building has instead cost a Minnesota high school dance coach her job and divided supporters of the team in the process. The Cannon Falls school board voted Monday not to renew the contract of Madi Salisbury, the head coach of the Bomber Dance Team, due to a July 25 incident at the school's auditorium.
The incident occurred during an all-night event at the school. Salisbury, who was not allowed to speak in her own defense at Monday's meeting, told the Rochester Post Bulletin the plan was to turn the lights out in the auditorium and play scary music while upperclassmen jumped out and scared younger team members. That's when things went awry.
As the paper reports:
Salisbury said that unbeknownst to her, a teacher who was not on staff brought in pop guns, which some students heard and thought were real guns. She said she wasn't in the room when the situation unfolded, and promptly put a stop to it when she heard screaming.
"I did not have prior knowledge of the guns," said Salisbury, who was set to begin her fourth year in Cannon Falls. "I did not know they were being brought out. I want to be very clear — the coaches planned this to jump out and scare the girls. It was taken to a different level under advisement of someone not even on staff. It wasn't intended to go the route it did.
Some members of the 53-member team sought counseling after the incident, according to Minneapolis' FOX TV affiliate.
Cannon Falls superintendent Beth Giese, says the decision not to renew Salisbury's contract was a difficult one, but one that came down to safety.
"We take our weapons policy and the Minnesota State High School League's policy very seriously, Giese said. "All decisions were based on that. We've got to support this policy. We have to protect the girls."
Dance team drama @ Cannon Falls HS. Late-night team building event ends in controversy. District discussing fall out. pic.twitter.com/HSayBhPlma— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) August 25, 2014
More than 150 people showed up at Monday's meeting, many of whom were there to support Salisbury. There were even demonstrations in the school's parking lot Monday afternoon in her support. Cannon Falls' dance team is one of the most successful in the state. The team has won six state titles and finished runner-up four times in the last 11 years. Salisbury was entering her fourth year as head coach.
"I've never had a black mark on my record," she told the Rochester Post Bulletin. "I've never been written up. The one time I make a mistake..."
"Zero tolerance is zero tolerance," Giese told FOX 9. "Cannon Falls schools take security very seriously — the safety of our students," she said. "We really found this incident was in violation of our hazing and weapons policy."
Salisbury has 15 days to appeal the school board's decision. Meanwhile, the school's athletic director said he planned to post the job opening this week. There is no word on disciplinary measures for the staff members who allegedly brought the pop guns to the event.