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BHS yearbook comment ignites controversy

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A comment made by a Brainerd High School student in the 2016-17 yearbook generated sizable controversy on social media in the past day.

One page of the yearbook asks students for their feelings about President Donald Trump. One of the four commenters, a sophomore, had harsh words for the president.

"I would like to behead him," the student said. "I do not like him."

A poll graphic on the page asks "Do you like Trump?" It's not clear how many students responded to the poll, but the "No" responses outweigh the "Yes" responses. It's unclear what the margin is between the two responses or how the poll was conducted.

On Oct. 25, 2016, BHS students joined students throughout the state in casting ballots for president, as part of the Students Vote program sponsored by the Minnesota Secretary of State. Trump won that straw poll at BHS, by a margin of 688 votes to 397 votes over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The BHS yearbook features grades 9-12. Yearbook costs range from $50-$60 depending on when students order the books. The yearbook adviser is Joe Wagner.

District officials have not returned calls seeking comment at this point. On Friday afternoon, the school district released the following statement on its website: "The administration of Brainerd Public Schools has been notified that the 2016-2017 high school yearbook contains highly disrespectful statements from students about political figures, including the president of the United States. The administration was previously unaware of the students' statements in the yearbook. The district does not support or otherwise endorse any disrespectful or politically based statements that are in the yearbook and apologizes for the statements that were included. While the district supports free speech, the disrespectful statements in the yearbook are contrary to the basic educational mission of the district and should not have been included in a school sponsored publication. The administration is currently investigating how this occurred and is reviewing the district's processes to ensure that this type of unacceptable situation does not occur in the future. The administration deeply regrets that the existing processes for reviewing the yearbook did not result in the removal of the inappropriate statements."

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

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