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Montana News

School counselor resigns amid investigation into alleged 'inappropriate relationship' with a former student

Manhattan High School in Manhattan, MT.
Manhattan School District
Manhattan High School in Manhattan, MT.

A longtime guidance counselor and coach in southwest Montana has resigned amid an allegation he had an inappropriate relationship with a former student.

According to Manhattan School District officials, John Sillitti, a high-school counselor and coach, resigned on Jan. 5 amid an allegation he had an inappropriate relationship with a high-school student roughly 15 years ago.

Manhattan Superintendent Brian Ayers says the school district’s attorney informed him of the allegation last month. Ayers says he was not given details.

“I contacted Mr. Sillitti, I informed him that I had been notified that there was an ongoing criminal investigation and that I would be placing him on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the district.”

Ayers says Sillitti was asked to appear for an interview, but he instead elected to resign. In his resignation letter, Sillitti cited personal reasons for leaving. Ayers says the district no longer has jurisdiction to compel Sillitti to participate in a district investigation.

Sillitti did not respond to multiple requests for comment by MTPR.

Investigation ongoing

Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer says his office continues to look into the allegation.

“This case is still open, the investigators are still doing further investigation on it as more information is coming.”

Springer declined further comment. According to the sheriff’s office, all materials related to the allegation are confidential as charges have not been brought and the case is still open.

A longtime guidance counselor and coach

Sillitti had worked for Manhattan Public Schools for over 20 years. He was inducted into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2020 as Manhattan’s head coach of cross-country and track and field.

Elizabeth Kaleva, the district’s attorney, notified the Montana Office of Public Instruction of the situation, as required by the state. It’s now up to the office to decide whether to further investigate, which is required to suspend or revoke an educator’s license.

An OPI spokesperson says staff will follow the administrative rules related to this issue, but did not say whether the office will pursue action.

Manhattan School Superintendent Brian Ayers says he’s aware of only one allegation and has no reason to assume there are more. However, “If this occurred years ago, of course our concern would be, were there other students? If it did occur years ago I don't know to what extent we could investigate that, because we have no information that that even happened. But that would be a concern.”

Ayers says the district wants to offer help and support to any students who need it.

Anyone with more information on this matter can reach reporter Shaylee Ragar at (406) 539-1677 or at shaylee.ragar@mso.umt.edu