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Belfield, ND principal suspended, accused of improper conduct with students

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Belfield, ND - The Belfield Public School principal has been suspended following a disorderly conduct investigation involving underage children.

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The school board unanimously voted to suspend Jeffrey Lamprecht from his duties without pay and begin dismissal procedures upon Superintendent Wade Northrop’s recommendations announced during a special meeting June 18. The decision came after the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Stark County Social Services and the Belfield Police Department investigated Lamprecht for alleged sexual misconduct, according to a BCI report.

“When our school receives any notification of complaint, we take it seriously and follow through as necessary,” Lamprecht wrote in a statement to The Dickinson Press. “Considering the magnitude of the allegations, my superintendent and school board are simply following through with procedures required by law.”

Lamprecht, who has been the school’s principal for nine years, has not been criminally charged. He is expected to go before the board for a hearing Aug. 19.

Northrop said he could not comment on the allegations. Attempts to reach Ed Procive, Belfield School Board president, were unsuccessful.

The allegations stem from incidents that occurred between March 7 and April 14, according to the report. History and social studies teacher Randy McDowell had contacted Belfield police stating a female student approached him and English teacher Roberta Duttenhefer. In the 44-page BCI document, McDowell claims the student said she was summoned to Lamprecht’s office for more than two class periods to discuss her medical condition. The student claims the principal put his hands on her and prayed over her to heal her through faith. The report also alleges Lamprecht gave her a small package of pills, “took a photograph of her with his telephone and invited her to his basement to record music.” The pills were later given to Belfield police, according to the report.

McDowell also wrote in a report to the BCI that other students made similar allegations, but didn’t specify how many or to what extent.

Photographs ‘taken with consent’

BCI Special Agent Travis Holding Eagle was in charge of the investigation. He met with the teachers, alleged victims and their parents, and Lamprecht, according to the report.

The principal admitted the meetings took place, but not as described by McDowell or the students. In the report, Lamprecht said the meetings were behind closed doors and were long, but that it was his intention to help his students.

Lamprecht admitted to taking photos of students and showed them to Holding Eagle, according to the report. There were about 15 to 20 photographs of school-age students on his cellphone; most were of girls.

Lamprecht also addressed the female student’s concerns in an email to Holding Eagle, stating he was aware of the girl’s troubled past.

“They were encouraged to hear we take a ‘family’ approach to educate at BHS … I take time to speak with all of our new students -- getting to know them; making them feel welcomed and valued,” Lamprecht wrote. “I’m an administrator who cares about his students much as a father cares for his children.”

In the email, Lamprecht wrote that the girl had a clean slate and that the school would work with her to accomplish her goals. He added that he was trying to reconcile the fact that the student felt threatened by him.

“It’s never easy being accused of anything,” Lamprecht wrote in the email to The Press. “I’ve never been through something like this before -- and I’d be lying if I said it was easy to absorb.”

Lamprecht said he was searching for legal representation as of Wednesday.

Previous reports

This isn’t the first time McDowell has reported Lamprecht for misconduct. McDowell also contacted the police in March 2013 about alleged illicit use of drugs and alcohol at the school.

“This (reliable) student has told me about drug exchanges in the bleachers and bathrooms, and drug use in school,” McDowell wrote in a statement to police.

“I notified our principal Jeff Lamprecht. On these occasions, he either dismisses my reports or we get into a verbal debate with me claiming that parents and law enforcement needs to be involved and Jeff claiming that instead we should offer advice and counseling to these students.”

McDowell also said he was informed that other students were drinking whiskey from water bottles in the bleachers during weight class.

“It had about an ounce of whiskey left in it -- I could smell it,” McDowell wrote. “I went straight to the superintendent, Darrel Remington. After presenting the evidence and suggesting we take action, he notified me that there was nothing we could do. I believe it was an administrator’s responsibility to question students and take further action, but nothing was done.”

Remington retired as the school’s superintendent in 2013.

There were also allegations from McDowell that Lamprecht took interest in a new female sophomore student enrolled at the school. The girl joined the school’s guitar club, led by Lamprecht. The student told McDowell that Lamprecht bought her an $800 guitar and that she “spent many hours in Mr. Lamprecht’s office behind closed doors.” Lamprecht also allegedly purchased a cellphone for the student, McDowell wrote in the report.

Another senior student also spent “much time” behind closed doors in Lamprecht’s office, McDowell wrote, enough where the teacher said classmates began to talk about it. A report from the girl claimed Lamprecht made comments insinuating sexual things, making her feel anxiety.

“She felt ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘creeped out,’ ” McDowell wrote. “Through hearsay, mostly from the student, I know the parent complained to the school and met with the superintendent. About a week later the senior student was upset and told me ‘Mr. Remington did an investigation. Mr. L(amprecht) denied it, and now I’m a liar.’ (paraphrased).”

McDowell understands that the matters were confidential but wrote that he was concerned that a “disproportionate number in my opinion were the stereotypical ‘pretty girls,’ ” adding other teachers had shared his suspicions.

“I find it disturbing the number of hours he spends behind closed doors with these girls,” McDowell continued in the report. “It is suspicious and unprofessional. I have no actual proof of (misconduct) on his part, but my experience over the past few years with Mr. Lamprecht makes me highly suspicious of his intentions.”

No charges

After the investigation concluded in May, Holding Eagle met with Northrop and Stark County Social Services, according to the report. Holding Eagle stated in his opinion that Lamprecht’s behavior was criminal in nature, but that he and those involved felt that “the appropriate action would be to remedy the situation within the school district as opposed to pursuing criminal action.”

According to North Dakota Century Code, a school administrator or staff member may be dismissed for immoral conduct.

Northrop said in the report that he had heard of the allegations and that “the situation would be dealt with.” The BCI investigation is considered closed.

Lamprecht originally thought he had been dismissed without being heard but was happily corrected, he wrote in the email to The Press.

“It’s now my understanding the hearing is the time and place the school board, for the first time, hears both sides and makes their determination,” he wrote in the email.

The hearing isn’t a “fight,” he wrote, but a process for him to share the challenges school administrators and teachers face.

“In the meantime, I look forward to even greater health and wonderful things the Lord has yet in store for me,” he wrote. “Truth always prevails.”

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April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined The Dickinson Press as the assistant editor in January 2014 and was named news editor in October 2014. She helps lead a team of top-notch news reporters and plays a role in coordinating design for western North Dakota's award-winning newspaper. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican, where she helped the two newspapers win numerous awards.   
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