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Niagara Wheatfield Central School District puts high school principal on administrative leave

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The principal of Niagara Wheatfield High School is now on administrative leave and an indepdendent, outside investigation is underway in the school district.

Principal Michael Mann was placed on leave Thursday. It comes as he has been under fire from parents for his handling of a rape case involving two students.

“It is very important that we allow all of the facts to be collected in this matter,” Ljilijanich said in a statement.

Assistant Principal Jeff White is now serving as acting principal. 

Parents and students have been expressing outrage of the district’s handling of the rape of one student by another off campus last summer. The perpetrator, who is not being identified because he is eligible for youthful offender status, pleaded guilty to the charge on May 23rd. He was still in school with his victim until May 31st.

Some students walked out of school in protest last Friday.

Now, the victim has hired an attorney. That attorney, Barry Covert, referred to the district’s handling of the situation as “cowardly”.

After charges were first filed, a judge issued an order of protection for the victim against her rapist. Covert says that court order was shown to school officials on August 29th of last year.

“The school district accepted that paper on August 29th of last year and promptly ignored it,” Covert said. “My client complained week after week that she was in his vicinity daily, multiple times a day in the hallways of the school.

“Sometimes they would have class across from one another so they would absolutely be in the same vicinity at those times.”

At a school board meeting Wednesday night, the victim’s mother, Leslie, expressed more frustration. In a statement released last week, Ljiljanich said school officials did not have documentation proving the student’s guilty plea until May 30th. But Leslie said she told Mann about it on May 24th.

“It was not my responsibility to bring you the letter that my daughter received from Niagara County Court as proof that he pled guilty,” Leslie told school officials. “You have a phone book. You know how to read. You could have contacted them yourself, in private on May 24th.”

Ljiljanich did not respond to request for further comment on Thursday. None of the school board members responded to messages either.

Citing Niagara Wheatfield’s code of conduct, Covert said the man could have been disciplined long before the guilty plea anyway.

“They define harassment as abuse that occurs on or off the premises that would lead someone to feel intimidated on the premises,” he said. “Their code does not require a criminal conviction. That’s a ridiculous policy that they’re trying to claim that they have.”

The man is scheduled to be sentenced on the rape charge in July.

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