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Investigation into teacher, knife at school continues

Bemidji Middle School teacher Denise Black remains on paid leave as an investigation continues into a November incident that occurred in her classroom.

Black, an eighth-grade science teacher, was placed on paid administrative leave two days after a Nov. 28 incident involving a knife. The school district hired Black as a teacher in September 1992. She has been continuously employed by the school district since then.

No charges were filed in connection with the incident. An investigation through the Minnesota Department of Education is ongoing, Superintendent Jim Hess said. He said an MDE investigator asked the school district to follow up on several points of interest or concern regarding the incident.

A detective with the Bemidji Police Department investigated the incident after a school district administrator reported the matter.

According to the police report, Black had just finished cutting a cake in the classroom and had a "large kitchen knife" in one hand when she grabbed a male student around the neck from behind and held the knife to his chest.

Director of Human Resources Jordan Hickman followed up on the incident and interviewed at least four students who witnessed the event, the report said.

The boy who was grabbed told Hickman that he knew Black was just "joking" and he was unafraid during the incident, the report said.

A boy who saw the incident said he was "kind of surprised - kind of, but not really" while a girl said she believed Black had done it as a "joke," the report said. A second girl said she was "kind of scared" and that Black might have done it as a joke.

The police detective did not believe a crime had occurred and the Beltrami County Attorney concurred, deciding not to pursue charges against Black.

The Bemidji School Board will meet in a closed session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the District Office Conference Room to discuss "preliminary considerations of allegations or charges against an employee," according to a recent meeting notice from Hess.

However, it is not known whether the meeting will be about Black. Hess said Friday that he could not release the name of the involved employee due to data privacy laws.

No action is expected to occur during the closed meeting, he said.

Black could not be reached for comment.