WAUPACA COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – A criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details charges against a former Manawa special education teacher accused of abusing a student with autism.
David D. Bessette is charged with felony counts of Mental Harm to a Child and Physical Abuse of a Child in Waupaca County.
The complaint states the incident happened January 28, 2016 at Little Wolf Junior/Senior High School.
Police were initially contacted by the Manawa School District Administrator, who had learned from the victim’s mother that Bessette had dragged the student into a hallway and sprinkled water on him, according to the complaint. The boy’s mother said her son has sensory issues and doesn’t like wet clothing. The mother said that information is documented in the student’s record.
After the water incident, the student “became irritated and ran down the hall taking his clothes off,” according to the criminal complaint.
The administrator said the incident was confirmed by video evidence, which was obtained by Action 2 News.
The head of the special education department said she interviewed Bessette, who claimed the victim was refusing to go to gym class. Bessette said the student laid down on a rug near the school office. Bessette said he wet his hands and touched the student’s face and the student ran into a door. The teacher said he offered his hand to pull the student to a bench. Bessette claimed the victim’s clothes got wet from the floor.
In a second interview with Bessette, the head of the department showed video of Bessette pulling the student across the floor, sprinkling water on him, and yanking him back when he tried to run away, according to the complaint.
Bessette denied doing anything to harm the boy.
Also detailed in the criminal complaint, a witness told police Bessette was talking with someone else when the victim sat next to them on the bench. Bessette allegedly told the victim he had “until the count of five” to get up and leave. When the count ended, Bessette grabbed the boy by the elbow to pull him up and down the hallway, the witness said.
The Manawa School District terminated David Bessette’s contract in February.
Bessette has a court appearance scheduled June 21.
If convicted of both counts, Bessette faces a potential sentence of more than 15 years in prison.
The school district declined comment on this story.