RICHLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A village trustee and former teacher is accused of sending inappropriate pictures and texts to former students that have created an outcry on social media.
Robert Prentice was a teacher and driving instructor at Delton Kellogg Schools in the early 2000s. He currently serves as a trustee for the village of Richland. Prentice was Facebook friends with many of his former students, but a group of women says he has crossed the line.
Nicole Bhola had Prentice as a teacher when she was a 10th-grader at Delton Kellogg High School in 2004. Now 32, she remained connected with many in her hometown after she moved to Florida. On Friday, she got a Facebook message from Prentice that included a blurry full-body shot of him in the shower, most of his body obscured.
“My initial reaction was like, ‘Oh my God.’ Nobody has ever sent me a picture like that and second of all, this is somebody that I had looked up to as a mentor,” Bhola said.
She immediately responded.
“I replied back … ‘I find it more inappropriate from a married man to a married woman than I find it funny,’” Bhola said. “’Why would you do that? What would make you think it was funny to do that?’”
Bhola was so shocked by the photo that she decided to share it publicly on Facebook. She has been surprised by the response.
“I’d say it’s been 100 or more women who have reached out to me personally through a direct message and told me, ‘This is what happens with me this is my personal story. I didn’t have a voice to speak out and thank you for doing so,’” Bhola said Saturday.
After the post had been shared dozens of times, Prentice posted a response that reads in part: “It was all done as a harmless funny on my part. Very stupid in hindsight but all done very innocently. Nothing done with the slightest sexual thoughts, just stupidity.”
“I don’t accept that apology. It wasn’t directed to me. I don’t find anything humorous in it,” Bhola said. “If there’s changes in behavior, then yeah, that’s gonna be an acceptable apology, but the words right now are not good enough for me.”
The photo went to at least three other women who told similar stories. Some stories were worse, including one from a woman who told 24 Hour News 8 she was groped by Prentice after he lent her money. She said he also sent her the picture.
Another woman got a message from Prentice, who was her teacher more than 12 years ago, when she posted a picture of herself with her child. He proclaimed, “I’m a dirty old man and like boobs, too.”
24 Hour News 8 stopped by Prentice’s home twice Saturday. The garage was up the first time, but no one came to the door. The second time, someone was definitely at the home, but that person didn’t come to the door. Prentice has also not responded to multiple messages left at home and via Facebook Messenger.
24 Hour News 8 contacted the Richland village president, who says he knows nothing of the accusations.
“I don’t see him as a mentor anymore or somebody I should look up to, let alone the public to look up to or for any guidance,” Bhola said.
It’s not clear at this point if anything illegal has happened. 24 Hour News 8 is waiting to hear from authorities.