MANHATTAN — Shortly after students at Manhattan High School returned to campus from winter break, their longtime guidance counselor and well-known head coach for the Tigers, John Sillitti, had resigned after allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a former student.
Sillitti had served as a guidance counselor for the school since 1999 and was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame in 2020 after leading both of the school's cross country and track and field programs to numerous state championships.
Manhattan Superintendent Brian Ayers says the alleged relationship took place 15 years ago and that Manhattan Public Schools was made aware of it at the end of December by an attorney who represents the district. The district immediately placed Sillitti on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
“We had a scheduled meeting with Mr. Sillitti on (Jan. 4), and at that meeting, he informed he had been advised not to answer any questions, so we were unable to interview him, which was key to our investigation of the allegation that was out there," Ayers explained.
Sillitti resigned the following day, citing personal reasons, Ayers said. The following week, on Jan. 10, Manhattan Public Schools sent a letter to the Montana Office of Public Instruction notifying them of Sillitti’s resignation in lieu of an investigation and possible termination by the district.
“When he resigns, that effectively ended our investigation," Ayers stated. "We are aware of a criminal investigation that is ongoing, and we have not been contacted officially.”
Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer told MTN News his office has been investigating the allegations since mid-August to determine whether criminal charges will be filed.
“We don’t really know where that investigation is except other than we’re just aware there is an ongoing investigation, so we really do have to be careful with what we do because don’t want to interfere," Ayers emphasized.
While the age of the former student at the time of the alleged relationship is currently unknown, the age for consent in Montana is 16 years old.
However, according to an amended state law that was signed in 2019, a student is incapable of giving consent if the perpetrator is in a position of authority over the student in a school setting.
“Our role as a district in this ongoing investigation is just to cooperate with the authorities, and as information comes to us - as requests come to us - we’ll cooperate fully," Ayers promised.
Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer asks if anyone has information to please contact their detective division at 406-582-2121.