A Montana School Board Association investigation of Manhattan Elementary School teacher Adam Priquette shows a pattern of physical and emotional abuse by the fourth-grade educator.
Priquette was placed on administrative leave May 19 after parents complained that he had abused their child, according to school records. The complaint resulted in an investigation by MSBA field service specialist Kerri Langoni, who issued her findings in a Sept. 1 report after interviewing 19 people between July 12 and Aug. 10. Manhattan Elementary School Principal Scott Schumacher also interviewed 20 students from the school district for the report.
The Belgrade News sued the district last month after several failed attempts to obtain the investigative report. Notaro released the report Dec. 23.
According to the report, a May 10 meeting was called over the initial abuse complaint with Schumacher, Priquette, his representative and the parents of the student. The issue was whether or not Priquette gave the child a "v-notch". A v-notch is when pressure is placed on the area where the collar bone meets in a "v shape" at the base of the neck.
The student said Priquette performed the procedure twice in one day after the student "smarted off" to the teacher, according to the investigation.
Priquette denied the allegation and said "he only gives students a v-notch to demonstrate what it is," the report states. He denied performing the procedure on students without getting approval. He also said the incident with the student was the first time a parent had complained.
"Priquette stated that he has never had a parent approach him about no longer giving v-notches to their students, or putting their child in ‘Vulcan grip,'" the report states. A Vulcan grip is an act where pressure is placed behind the ears.
The investigator said two separate parents have also complained of the procedure and asked Priquette to stop, according to the investigation. The report also states "there is no evidence" that the teacher asks for permission or the students request a demonstration of a v-notch.
Priquette also denies performing Vulcan grips on students, but 10 students said otherwise, the report states.
Another student with a craniofacial anomaly said Priquette told the student "she had ‘a face only a mother could bear,'" according to the investigation. Schumacher said the parent complained and notes from the incident indicate Priquette admitted to making the statement. Priquette denied making the statement to the investigator.
"Priquette is not credible on this point," Langoni wrote. "It can be substantiated that Mr. Priquette made this statement to (the student), a female student in his class."
Priquette also dumps students' desks over onto the floor, according to the investigation. The teacher admitted doing so when a student was holding up class.
While the report cannot substantiate whether Priquette intentionally tackled a student on the frozen playground that resulted in an emergency flight to Billing for medical treatment, Langoni did say the teacher was "not credible" in relaying the day's events.
On Nov. 8, 2000, a student in Priquette's class was badly injured during recess after a football incident left the student bleeding from his nose and both ears, according to the report.
The frozen ground was hard and contained icy patches, according to the investigation. The parent of the injured child said several other parents said "that their son or daughter saw the incident, and that Mr. Priquette landed on top of (the student), and the rest of the kids piled on top of him."
"Over the course of the years, (the parent) stated that people have gone out of their way to talk to her about the incident," the report states.
The parent said Priquette showed up at the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital emergency room and told her that he didn't land on the student.
Priquette denied going to the hospital and speaking with the parent. He also said he fell "near the student" but did not land on him. He said everyone involved in the incident "fell down" including the injured student, himself and two to three other kids.
The parent of the injured child said students told a different story and that the teacher landed on her child.
The investigator said "Priquette is not credible in his statement that he did not go to the hospital and speak with (the parent.)"
"It can be substantiated, both Priquette's statements to (the parent) at the hospital, and witness statements, that Priquette landed on (the student)," the investigation stated.
The report also stated and backed up claims that Priquette made sexual comments to a female high school student. According to two school officials, Priquette called the student "sexy" and a "blonde bombshell" while "flirting" with her. Priquette denied the allegation.
The report lists other allegations but the investigation could not substantiate whether the events happened. Langoni wrote Priquette crossed the line in several instances.
"Many witnesses who were interviewed indicated that Adam Priquette does not observe appropriate boundaries between teachers and students," she wrote. "Witnesses stated that Priquette is often the one who instigates teasing toward students, causing students to tease other students about things such as kissing girls, and calling each other names."
The investigator also said the teacher set up a classroom environment that divided students.
"Many witnesses stated that Mr. Priquette favors certain students in his class, and has a pattern of favoring male jocks, and pretty females," Langoni wrote. "Witnesses also indicated that Mr. Priquette makes students who do not go along with ‘his program' feel that they are no longer part of the ‘club.'"
Priquette and the Manhattan School Board agreed to a negotiated resignation in October, according to school records. The teacher will remain on the payroll until June 1, 2012, and receive a severance payment of 20 percent of his accumulated emergency leave, along with two unused personal days. The settlement bans Priquette from taking legal action against the school district.
In return, Priquette received a letter of recommendation from Superintendent Jim Notaro and the district will be barred from discussing his tenure at the school should future employers contact the district for a reference. The school will also seal his personnel file.