Hardin Students Protest Faculty Member

Hardin Students Protest Faculty Member
Hardin High School students that protested the school’s lack of action against a staff member that has been accused of abusive behavior stood for an interview with KTVQ. / Photo by Luella Brien, Four Points Press

A group of roughly 30 students marched in front of Hardin High School Tuesday to protest the school’s lack of action against a staff member that has been accused of abusive behavior towards students, staff and his own child.

The students walked out of school at 2 p.m. on April 9th and marched until the end of the day at 3:30 p.m. While Hardin High School would not name the staff member being protested, students preparing for the protest stated plainly that they were protesting Travis Krieger, the school’s Athletics Director. 

“Krieger likes to be mean to kids, bully them, to get his own way,” one of the protesters explained while making a sign that read, “Students shouldn’t be silenced.” 

Krieger was investigated by the school last month, after an incident that occurred during an AAU Wrestling match at Lockwood, in which Krieger allegedly assaulted his daughter after she reportedly lost her wrestling match. Police were called to the scene. 

Students also blame Krieger for causing another staff member to quit due to verbal abuse against that staff member's wife at a high school swim meet.

The school’s response to the protest left protesters confused, but no less fired up and ready. Initially, there were around three students planning the event, and one of them, Lola Andres, met with Assistant Principal Kole Passes, who was acting principal while Deanna Albert was on a professional trip. 

Andres said Passes made it sound like he wanted to help the students, but Andres woke up to find she had been given four days of out of school suspension starting the day of the protest.

That didn’t stop her from coming to the protest and joining in. According to emails sent to Jena Andres, Lola’s mother, Lola was suspended due to “Engaging in any activity that constitutes an interference with school purposes or an educational function or any other disruptive activity.” 

Hardin High School students on April 9 protested the school’s lack of action against a staff member that has been accused of abusive behavior toward. / Photo by Luella Brien

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, students in public schools do not enjoy the full First Amendment rights when it comes to protesting. According to the ACLU website, “generally, (students) have the right to speak out so long as (they) do not substantially or materially disrupt school operations. Some things that could be considered substantial or material disruptions are: blocking entrances and exits, disrupting class by leaving or making noise that would interrupt a class, climbing on school structures and property, hate speech & bullying, threats of violence, or breaking laws. A school can punish (students) for disrupting class by speaking out of turn or for leaving without permission, even if (they) did so to make a political statement."

Students said they were told via their morning and afternoon announcements on Monday that if they participated in the protest their athletic eligibility and participation in the graduation ceremony could be affected. 

The crowd of students were met with news cameras covering the event, as well as Hardin Police officers and Big Horn County Sheriff deputies.

Some adult members of the community also showed up as time went on, with some honking in support, and a few joined the protest, holding signs and chanting along with the students. 

At around 2:29 PM, Crow Tribe Chairman Frank White Clay, Secretary Levi Black Eagle and Vice-Secretary Chan Whiteman came to “support the students and staff, they can speak and be heard.” 

Chairman Whiteclay also explained they wanted to show support because the same staff member had previously tried to stop two students from wearing tribal regalia at the Hardin graduation ceremony in 2019. 

Secretary Black Eagle had some words of encouragement to the protesters, telling them “We’re proud of you, you’re doing this the right way.” He also reminded them that action can only be taken on official, written complaints. 

Lola Andres explained her concerns, stating that the protest “is about Krieger, but it’s also about the fact that people will hire people who are not good. If we can’t have a happy staff, we won’t have happy students. I think they need to take more precaution regarding who they hire.”

Travis Krieger did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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