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Former Manawa teacher convicted of child abuse

David Bessette (Photo courtesy Waupaca Co. Sheriff's Office)

WAUPACA, Wis. (WLUK) – A former Manawa teacher was convicted Thursday of child abuse for an incident involving an autistic student – but the felony count could be removed from his record.

David Bessette, 45, pleaded no contest to a felony count of child abuse and a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct – which was reduced from a felony count of causing mental harm to a child.

He was sentenced to one year on probation for the disorderly conduct count. On the felony child abuse charge, a deferred prosecution agreement was reached. Under the terms, if Bessette successfully completes the terms of probation, the felony count would be dismissed, according to a court official.

The deal avoids a trial, which was scheduled to start Oct. 12.

The incident, which was captured on a security camera, happened in January. The video shows Bessette dragging the student, 13, across the floor at Little Wolf Junior-Senior High School.

Bessette told authorities he was trying to get the student back to class that afternoon. However, the student refused. Instead the boy was hanging from equipment in the weight room, then sat on the floor outside the school office. Eventually you can see Bessette grab the student by his arms and drag the student across the floor for the first time.

At one point Bessette gets his hands wet in a water fountain, and appears to drop water on the boy. According to the criminal complaint, the student is known to have a severe aversion to getting his clothes wet. In the complaint, Bessette said he did not intend to get the boy wet, but said the water got the student moving.

After that, Bessette grabs the boy again and drags him farther across the room, eventually over to the water fountain. Finally the student runs away while taking his clothes off.

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