MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An assistant principal in Bemidji is accused of trying to solicit children to engage in sexual conduct over the internet.
Brandon Bjerkness, 34, of Bemidji is charged with two counts of solicitation of children to engage in sexual conduct, both felonies.
Authorities say Bjerkness, while working as an assistant principal for Bemidji Middle School, has been contacting juvenile children through Facebook, Snapchat and email using a fake identity.
While contacting children, Bjerkness allegedly used the name Brett Larson – a 13-year-old male student attending Morgan Park in Duluth. The school has been closed for several years.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators tracked down the minor victims and confirmed they were 13 and 14 years old. They both admitted engaging in conversations with “Brett Larson” via SnapChat and that the conversations were sexual in nature.
Authorities say Bjerkness’ phone revealed conversations with the victims occurred throughout March of 2017.
Now, the county sheriff’s office is asking parents to talk to their children and determine if they have had contact with “Brett Larson” on any of these social media accounts. Parents are advised to call 218-333-9111 and ask to speak with an investigator if so.
Bemidji Area Schools said Friday that Bjerkness was immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“As always, the priority for Bemidji Area Schools is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students,” the school said. “All complaints regarding school district employees are taken seriously and will work with all appropriate agencies to ensure that a comprehensive investigation is completed.”
If convicted, Bjerkness faces up to three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine per charge.