News 8 Investigates: Principal charged with abuse previously reported for behavior
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. (WKBT) — A middle school principal accused of causing a chemical burn to a student has previously been investigated by the school district and police for inappropriate behavior.
News 8 was able to obtain the personnel file for the educator through a Freedom of Information Act request. In the file dating back to 1997 when Aaron Amundson was hired by the district, there were at least four separate incidents and two state-level investigations for his behavior since becoming the middle school principal in the Prairie du Chen Area School District.
According to Amundson’s personnel file, the first incident to be reviewed happened in January of 2012, when he sent an email containing “content of a sexual nature” to some staff members. The issue was discovered during a separate harassment complaint investigation.
In a 2013 letter sent to the Bluff View Intermediate School principal, an investigator found he said “pissed off” while speaking in an agitated state to an employee.
Then in December of 2014, a parent complained that the principal reportedly called a group of students “idiots.” A change.org petition to remove the principal from his position received 307 electronic signatures.
A separate parent complained a few days prior that Amudson told students, “God help me if you have to ask me what line you’re in, I am going to kill ya.” That incident was reviewed by the Prairie du Chien Police Department and he received disciplinary action, but there were no criminal charges according to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access site.
“At that time, he was put on a week’s non-paid leave,” said Robert Smudde, administrator for the district.
A few months later, he participated in a nonviolent crisis intervention course. But the district’s superintendent said this is typical training for all staff and was not in response to any one incident.
“It talks about verbal deescalation, proper safe[ty] restraint if you have to restrain kids. But it goes through a whole curriculum and has to be re-upped every year,” Smudde said in a phone interview.
The personnel file also states Amundson was investigated at some point by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction under ‘seclusion and restraint’ issues which required a corrective action plan. But the district’s superintendent said they have no record of the report.
“I only have certain amounts of information from different agencies in this aspect. And I’m trying to get all of that put together before we can make an informed employment decision,” Smudde said.
Smudde, who was not the district’s superintendent during the other incidents noted in the file, said Amundson seemed to be a “model administrator” until now.
“I had not heard a single thing about him until this incident as far as negative,” Smudde said.
After each incident, statements in the file said the district “does not tolerate this behavior from an administrator” and it “must not be repeated.” The letters then threatened Amundson with more severe disciplinary action including the non-renewal of his contract.
It’s now up to school board members to decide if these reports are part of a bigger problem.
“Though working with legal counsel, we’re trying to figure out: Do these continue to exhibit a pattern of behavior or are these separate instances that are not related?” Smudde said.
Amundson is still on paid leave from the district. The district’s superintendent said a decision regarding next steps could be made during a school board meeting on Monday.
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