Montville, CT (WFSB) — Three administrators have been charged following a reported “fight club” at Montville High School.
Superintendent Brian Levesque, 45, of Brooklyn, assistant principal Tatiana Patten, 59, of Niantic and 64-year-old principal Jeffrey Theodoss of Shrewsberry, MA were arrested in connection with the incident.
All three have been placed on leave.
The arrests came after 23-year-old substitute math teacher Ryan Fish of Bozrah was arrested.
According to an arrest warrant, Fish watched and encouraged the students. He told police that he didn’t set up the fights, but admitted to egging on the students to “let them get their energy out.”
Cell phone video released of one of the fights showed victims between the ages of 14 and 16 slapping each other. Another shows students punching each other in the head and face.
Troopers said in Dec. 2017, Montville police began investigating the fight club. The alleged fights happened in Oct. 2017.
Fish was fired a short time afterward.
However, investigators found that all three administrators were aware of the fights but failed to report it.
The warrant says a guidance counselor told the Patten that a parent wanted the school to be aware of a slap boxing incident in the classroom.
Patten brought it to Principal Jeffery Theodoss’s attention.
She reportedly told police “Patten received a text message from Principal Theodoss which instructed her not to say anything to anyone and that he would find out if this was an arrestable offense.”
Investigators say Theodoss then went up the chain of command to the superintendent.
“Theodoss stated that he informed the superintendent and explained that he asked Levesque if the police should be notified. Theodoss stated that Levesque stated ‘no’.”
When investigators talked with Levesque, the warrant said “Levesque stated that he did not think it was criminal and thought it was a one time incident, and stated that he did not believe it was a DCF issue.”
Montville assistant superintendent Laurie Pallin issued a statement on Thursday after the arrests.
“It is with a heavy heart that, as assistant superintendent, I try to make sense of a very unfortunate situation.
Today is a sad day for our district. Three well-known and highly respected members of the Montville Public Schools administrative team turned themselves in to state police Troop E this morning. These people are not only my colleagues, but they are my friends. As of today, the superintendent, the high school principal, and the assistant principal have been placed on leave pending the outcome of our internal investigation as well as the ongoing state police investigation.
There is much that, legally, I cannot address, and, due to the fact that I was not part of this investigation, I do not have many of the details.
What I can tell you is that we cannot and will not let this current situation define who and what we are at Montville Public Schools.
I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our students and our families. The incident that occurred in a high school classroom was unacceptable but it is an exception to how Montville Public Schools operate- it does not illustrate the priority we place on student safety. It is our fundamental belief that every student in every one of our schools shall have a rich learning environment that is safe and nurturing.
We are exceptionally proud of our schools, our students, our educators, and our community. Our students and staff deserve to be recognized for all that makes our school community such a special place.”
The board met for an executive session on Thursday afternoon.
Pallin released a statement on Friday stating that her leadership plan for Montville High School had been finalized.
It was announced that Heather Sangermano, the current principal of Montville’s Palmer Building will assume the role of acting principal for Montville High School as of Monday.
Phil Orbe will become acting assistant principal of Montville High School as of Monday.
Pallin will remain assistant superintendent, filling the role of superintendent, until otherwise advised by the Montville Board of Education.
There will be a Board of Education meeting on April 24 to discuss this matter.
In the statement released on Friday, Pallin said in part, “I am very confident and comfortable in this position. Now, more than ever, we need a strong leader to guide us through these difficult times, and I am up the challenge. My hope is that we can get back to some sense of normalcy and return our focus to our students and thier eduction.”
Levesque, Patten, and Theodoss turned themselves in when they were made aware of warrants.
They were charged with failure of mandated reporter to report abuse.
They are due in court on May 3 in Norwich.