PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. — A Prairie du Chien principal faces a felony charge accusing him of using a chemical to wash a student’s hand.
Aaron G. Amundson, 43, of Prairie du Chien, is charged in Crawford County Circuit Court with child abuse-recklessly causing harm. The charge was filed Wednesday against Amundson, the principal of Bluff View Intermediate School. His initial court appearance is set for May 9.
Reached by telephone Thursday morning, Amundson said he was on nondisciplinary paid leave from the school, but he declined to comment further. He directed inquiries to his attorney. Corey Chirafisi, of Madison-based law firm Chirafisi & Verhoff, declined to comment.
According to court documents, a 14-year-old student reported that a classmate wrote “FU” on his hand in permanent marker during an “after-hours program” on March 21.
Teacher Bob Plomedahl saw the writing and took the boy to Amundson’s office. Amundson said “he thought he could get rid of it,” so he took the student to a janitor’s closet, according to court documents. After unsuccessfully trying to remove the letters using water, Amundson “grabbed a chemical off the shelf.”
“(The boy) said that Mr. Amundson sprayed it on his hand a couple of times,” documents state. “The chemical started to bubble on his skin and (he) felt a burning sensation.”
Amundson then scrubbed the boy’s hand, and then the boy returned to the after-school program, documents state.
“He said his hand was burning,” according to court documents. “He showed two of his friends, and they said his hand looked bad.”
The boy went to the school nurse on March 22 and 23 and showed Amundson the wound, according to the complaint.
“(The boy) stated that Mr. Amundson just laughed and did not think it was a big deal,” documents state.
On March 24, the boy’s parents took him to Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien for treatment. According to court documents, the hospital staff said the boy had suffered a “bad chemical burn.”
“He finally came to me on Friday and said, ‘Mom look at my hand,’” said his mother, Melody Cox. “And I looked at it and I got so mad. I was in tears. I was irate.”
An investigator and a social worker met with Amundson, who admitted taking the boy to the janitor’s closet and said he first tried to use water from a hose with a Scotch Brite pad to remove the marker, but it did not work, according to court documents.
Amundson then looked at bottles of chemicals on the shelf and saw one that said “gum remover” on it and thought it would work, according to documents.
The chemical was identified Murry Gum and Wax Remover, which contains dry ice and includes a warning to avoid contact with skin, the documents state.
Amundson said he and the boy had a “decent conversation during the entire incident” and that the boy “did not seem bothered by it,” documents state. The principal said he returned the boy to the after-hours program and “forgot about it.”
The school district is independently investigating the incident, said Prairie du Chien Area School District Superintendent Bob Smudde.
Amundson remains on paid leave, pending district officials’ review of court documents and police records, Smudde said.
After those are reviewed, the district will decide the status of Amundson’s employment, Smudde said, adding that he is unsure how long the investigation could take.
“There are (multiple) sides to this,” Smudde said. “Creating a safe environment, which we believe we have done by putting him on leave — for both our students, himself and the district — and the ability to resolve the employment matter. We have to have things in writing so that we can see where we stand contractually and, obviously, what we will have to do as a result of the investigation.”
This marks at least the second time that the principal has been placed on leave.
Amundson was given five days of unpaid leave in January 2015 for an incident where he admitted calling students “idiots.” He was accused by parents of threatening to kill students for asking questions.
Cox said she wants Amundson “terminated and his license revoked so he cannot go to another school district and terrorize some other kids.”
“He ... came to me on Friday and said, ‘Mom look at my hand.’ And I looked at it and I got so mad. I was in tears. I was irate.” Melody Cox, student’s mother