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Menahga school board lifts no-trespass order

  The Menahga School Board voted to conditionally lift a no-trespass notice against Jon Kangas.

     The board held a special meeting Monday night to consider the issue.

     Kangas brought a folding utility knife into a December school board committee meeting.

     The school district’s weapons policy forbids all knives and blades.

     Board member Curtis Hasbargen made a motion “to lift the no-trespassing order contingent upon Kangas signing a statement that he’ll abide by school policies and in attending future events will not bring a knife into our school.”

     “The motion I made reflects information the attorney provided for us,” Hasbargen said.

     Due to client privacy privileges, the attorney’s letter was not made public.

     Board member Al Peterson sought an explanation for how a signed statement “makes us safer.”

     Superintendent Kevin Wellen said the district needs the assurance that school policies will be followed. He said that, in his opinion, a folding utility knife is a blade.

     “I don’t think there was a policy violation,” Peterson said.

     If the school board feels the policy is too restrictive or undefined, then there should be a policy discussion at a later time, said board chair Ernest Huhta Jr.

     “We’re not having a policy debate now,” Huhta said. “We expect people, staff, students to abide by our policy.”

     “What’s the intent here?” asked Peterson.

     “To make sure people don’t come to school with knives. It’s as simple as that,” replied Huhta.

     Peterson suggested the condition requires Kangas to admit wrong-doing.

     Huhta pointed out that Kangas is a former school board member.

     “I don’t think Jon or anybody else is above the policy,” Huhta said. “He clearly ignored the policy even though he knew about it.”

     Menahga’s weapons policy is based on language from the Minnesota School Board Association.

      “It’s a standard for everyone walking through the door of our school – students, adults, staff, anyone,” Wellen said.

     Hasbargen noted it’s a mandatory policy, required by state and federal law.

     Board member Andrea Haverinen suggested eliminating the phrase “in attending future events will not bring a knife into school.” She said it wasn’t necessary.

     Haverinen’s amendment passed 5-1, with Huhta opposed.

     The motion to conditionally lift the no-trespassing order then passed 6-0.