The Niagara-Wheatfield principal who was placed on leave in June after coming under criticism for his handling of two students involved in a rape case has tendered his resignation.Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich confirmed the departure of High School Principal Michael Mann during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
The mother of the rape victim criticized school officials for allowing her daughter to remain in class with the 17-year-old male who was placed on one year of interim probation for raping the teenage girl at his Shawnee Road home May 28, 2018.
In a statement released to the news media, Ljiljanich said the district will be starting a search for a new high school principal now that Mann has stepped down. In the interim, he said, Jeff White, who has served as acting principal this school year, will continue in his role as interim principal while the search for a permanent replacement for Mann is complete.
“Mr. White has done an outstanding job working with the high school team to create a smooth start to the school year, and is enthusiastic about continuing his work with our students and staff to foster a positive learning environment. We look forward to finding a strong and experienced candidate who will be an excellent fit for Niagara Wheatfield High School and the District,” Ljiljanich said.
The male teen who was involved in the rape case could be eligible for youthful offender status due to his age. As a result, he may not face prison-time, may not have to register as a sex offender and would have his conviction sealed.
The teenager admitted to the rape May 23 and pleaded guilty to a reduced count of third-degree rape. One week after the plea, the student was removed from Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School, which the victim also attended.
The victim’s mother urged Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon to sentence the teenager to prison and require him to register as a sex offender, saying he bragged about the assault to his lacrosse teammates and not accepted responsibility for his actions. “This man does not know the difference between rape and sex. Does that sound like a youthful offender to you?” the victim’s mother said.
The victim’s mother also said her daughter was “tormented” by having to attend school with the teenager for a year after the assault.
At the time of the male teen’s sentencing, Ljiljanich said the district was only made aware of the teenager’s guilty plea May 30, and removed him the same day.
The district’s response did not assuage students and parents upset that the district allowed an accused rapist to attend the same school as his victim for over a year.
On May 31, dozens of students staged a walk-out over the district’s handling of the situation. And at the district Board of Education meeting June 5, several residents demanded school Mann resign in the wake of the incident.
The victim’s mother also said she notified Mann on May 24 that the teenager had pleaded guilty to raping a fellow student.
The day after the meeting, School Board President Steven Sabo said Mann had been placed on administrative leave “pending the findings of an outside, independent investigation.”
The male teenager is scheduled to return before Sheldon for sentencing Aug. 12, 2020. If he cannot follow the terms of his strict sex offender probation, he could face up to four years in prison.