Wyola School Board Members Charged With Misconduct

Board suspended, interim board to be appointed.

Wyola School Board Members Charged With Misconduct

All three members of Wyola’s school board, have been charged with misdemeanor official misconduct in Big Horn County District Court in Hardin.

Albert Caplett III, Juanita Kay Stewart, and Misty Old Coyote are expected to appear in district court later to enter their pleas.

Big Horn County is overseeing the case because Wyola Public School is not a federal or tribal school , putting it in the county’s jurisdiction.

According to the charging documents filed on Nov 1 , evidence was delivered to Big Horn County Attorney Jeanna Torske by County Superintendent of Schools John Small and law enforcement. 

The document further explains the duties the school board has to the public, including requiring open meetings and having the minutes from those meetings available for public inspection. School board trustees are also required to make payments into the teacher’s retirement system and make reports as the county superintendent requires. According to the charging documents, none of these aforementioned duties were followed. 

The charging documents specify that on May 9 and 15, 2023, the public was not allowed to comment at the meetings. On October 5, after the Wyola community picketed outside the school building, Kenneth Deputee sent letters to some members of the community banning them from attending Wyola School and any of its programs.

The charging document goes further, stating that the letters failed to cite any school policy or law that would legally justify banning members of the public from the school, including board meetings. In addition to barring people from meetings, the school board has also refused to provide minutes of those meetings to anyone, including the Big Horn County School Superintendent John Small. The board has also failed to provide their claim book, despite multiple requests from the county superintendent,

The school board has failed to pay into the teacher’s retirement system since June of 2023, documents allege.

Official misconduct is a misdemeanor offense, with a maximum punishment consisting of a fine of $500 and imprisonment in the county jail for six months. 

On November 9, 2023, Jeanne Torske, Big Horn County Attorney, met with the Big Horn County Commissioners to explain the situation with Wyola’s school board.

Present at the meeting was George Real Bird III, as well as Lawrence "Pete" Big Hair and Larry Vandersloot and Crow Tribal Prosecutor David Sibley.

 Torske began the meeting by going over the board's violations. Torske also read from a letter sent to the Big Horn County Commissioners by John Small that also included the violations discussed in the charging documents. 

Sibley stepped up to discuss the board’s tribal violations. The violations hinge on Crow’s constitutional freedoms, including the freedom of speech and the right to assemble. These violations stem from Wyola School’s letters banning members of the community from going to the school. 

Torske retook the stage to ask the board to formally suspend the members of Wyola’s school board.

Commissioner Vandersloot made the motion to approve the measure. Big Hair seconded, and with a unanimous vote the commissioners agreed to suspend Wyola’s School board.

Torske thanked the commissioners for their time and explained how she now needed to reach out to the Office of Public Instruction and Small to appoint an interim board. 

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