PLAISTOW — A teacher’s future at Timberlane Regional High School is uncertain after he was convicted Tuesday of assaulting a female student when his forearm touched her shoulder during a 2018 incident over a lanyard he gave her.
Daniel Joyce, 56, of Auburn, was found guilty of simple assault after a two-hour trial in Plaistow Circuit Court.
The misdemeanor case was heard without a jury by Judge Sharon DeVries, who gave Joyce a $1,000 fine with $750 suspended.
Joyce, who taught at the school for 18 years, was also ordered to have no contact with 19-year-old Victoria Boutin, who was a senior when the incident happened at the high school.
“This physical contact should never have happened,” DeVries told Joyce before finding him guilty.
Superintendent Earl Metzler said he would be informing the school board of the court’s decision.
“A decision on his continued employment and certification will be decided by the Department of Education,” Metzler said.
The assault, caught on school surveillance, took place on Oct. 9, 2018, after Joyce gave Boutin a lanyard during psychology class that carried what he described as a “motivational” quote.
Joyce testified he had emailed Boutin earlier in the morning asking her to meet him outside of her normal class. His intention, he said, was to give her the lanyard outside class rather than in front of all of the students.
Boutin explained how she became interested in getting a lanyard after she saw someone else at school with a similar one. When she asked where it came from, Boutin said she was told Joyce had provided the lanyard.
Joyce later told her that he had given five lanyards to others in the school district and challenged her to find them. He told her that he would give her one if she could identify the five people.
Boutin was able to locate two people, and Joyce said he decided to give her the lanyard.
But Boutin testified that his request to meet with her outside class made her feel uncomfortable, and after speaking with a guidance counselor, she decided she would see him during regular class instead.
It was during class when Joyce placed the package containing the lanyard on Boutin’s desk. She testified that she didn’t know what was in the package, but pushed it aside and then put it into her backpack. Boutin said she felt like Joyce had singled her out because she was the only one who got the package.
Near the end of class, Joyce and Boutin had an encounter in which she said she felt “intimidated” when he held a water bottle in her face that she knocked out of his hand.
The assault happened later when Joyce ran into Boutin after class and used his forearm to make contact with her shoulder.
Boutin testified that he had pushed her into a wall and raised his voice when he made the comment, “You have nothing to say? Nothing at all?”
Joyce said he was referring to the fact that Boutin had not thanked him for the lanyard.
“I was in shock after he pushed me,” she said, adding that he also called her a “little sh-t.”
Joyce testified that he thought it was a “teachable moment” about the importance of acknowledging a gift when receiving one.
He denied pushing Boutin.
“I put my hand on her knapsack to make sure she knew (she) and I were having a conversation,” he said.
Boutin described how her interactions with Joyce had upset her. “I couldn’t sleep that whole night. I just didn’t know what to think of it,” she said.
Prosecutors argued Joyce had pushed her and ignored school policies about not having physical contact or intimidating students. Giving gifts is also discouraged, though Joyce said he considered the lanyard a reward for completing a challenge.
The assault allegation was similar to what Boutin claimed in a civil stalking petition she filed against him in Derry Circuit Court in January 2019. That petition was dismissed after the court found there was insufficient evidence to prove stalking.
He was placed on paid administrative leave while the school investigated and eventually suspended for a period by the school board. He has remained on leave pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Defense lawyer Richard Monteith said Joyce will consider appealing the verdict in the state Supreme Court.
“We certainly respect the court’s decision in this matter, but we respectfully disagree with it,” he said. “He had zero criminal intent to harm this victim.”