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New Richmond student denies alleged relationship

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Alex Ciak is mad.

The 18-year-old high school senior is the student accused of being "involved" with Ken Bessac, a now former career and technical education teacher at New Richmond High School.

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The problem, she said, is that nothing the school district wrote in Bessac's personnel file is entirely true.

"It's all assumptions, nothing is fact," she said.

Ciak said that while the district has several examples it cites for firing Bessac, none of her testimony - which included simple explanations for almost every issue -- was included in the file.

"Yeah, we spent time alone in a car together. Mr. Bessac was someone to vent to," she said. "Nowhere in there (Bessac's personnel file) does it say I was crabbing about my dad or that I was venting about a bad day."

Ciak said her relationship with Bessac was not a romantic one. Instead, she viewed him as a mentor.

Jeff Moberg, human resources director for the district, said that while Ciak's statements weren't included in Bessac's personnel file, they were included in the overall investigation and were considered before Bessac was terminated.

"Whether they contest that the relationship was physical, it doesn't change anything," he said.

Morrie Veilleux, district administrator, said the district has never claimed that Bessac's relationship with Ciak was sexual in nature, only that it was inappropriate.

"There is absolutely no way to describe his behavior in that relationship other than to say it was highly inappropriate," Veilleux said. "If people want to assume it was sexual, there's nothing the district can do about that."

According to the district's employee handbook, which is signed by all district staff, an inappropriate relationship can be a social or romantic relationship with a student, regardless of whether or not the student is 18 years old.

Ciak's father, Bob Ciak, stands behind his daughter and says he never told administrators that his daughter was "involved" with Bessac.

"I never told them that she said she was 'involved' with him," he said. "I never said it. What I told them is that I believe my daughter until someone proves otherwise. If there was a misunderstanding, that's on them."

Moberg said that the investigation shows otherwise.

"We have it on record that he said that," he said.

Alex Ciak said she recently requested to view the district's alleged video footage; however, she said she was told by Tom Wissink, high school principal, that she wouldn't be allowed to see them. She's since made a formal public records request to Veilleux, who said he was preparing the videos for Ciak's viewing.

"I want to see these videos of us 'making physical contact,'" she said.

"If they were true, he (Bessac) would be in jail right now."

Ciak did admit to hugging Bessac, but not in a sexual manner.

"Yeah I've hugged him, but there's nothing wrong with that," she said.

Bob Ciak said Bessac was a family friend and he was never concerned with the amount of time Bessac spent with his daughter.

"Granted, I thought other HMV (High Mileage Vehicle) kids were there," he said. "Spending that time alone in the car. I do believe he crossed the line there."

He said that while he appreciates the teacher being there for his daughter, he wishes Bessac would've come to him so that he could've gotten his daughter into counseling, if she needed someone to talk to.

Regardless, Bob Ciak said he never witnessed any inappropriate sexual behavior between Bessac and his daughter.

"The problem is that no one knows anything," he said. "They just have these time periods, but they don't know anything."

Alex Ciak said the district's example of her and Bessac leaving the school together at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 and not returning until 9:36 a.m. the following morning looks bad.

"Because they didn't put in there that I went home after that," she said. "We didn't spend the night together."

She claimed the district often lied about details during the investigation as an attempt to get Ciak to admit things. Moberg denies that claim.

"They told me that Mr. Bessac had said we kissed once, but it never happened," she said. "Why would I say it did if it didn't?"

Veilleux said the district stands behind their investigation.

"I observed and managed that whole investigation," he said. "It was above board and very fair. It was one of the best ones I've seen."

Veilleux said the district has a responsibility, whether Ciak believes it or not, to protect kids.

"We would never have, and the board would never have, terminated Mr. Bessac if we didn't believe we had solid evidence that supported it," he said.

Bessac's teaching contract was terminated on April 8 after a special school board meeting. He's since moved from New Richmond to work in the private sector.

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Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
(715) 243-7767 x243
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