CASPER — Tribal officials removed St. Stephens Indian School Superintendent Frank No Runner as well as other administrators and the entire board governing the school following an investigation that found “widespread wrongdoing of school leadership.”
The council voted to fire the administrators and school board members after the Bureau of Indian Education found they had engaged in the use of drugs and alcohol on school property and at school functions, sexual misconduct and harassment, bullying, nepotism and financial exploitation, according to a statement.
School officials also failed to ensure that employees maintained valid state teaching certification, according to the investigators’ report.
St. Stephens Indian School is a K-12 school on the Wind River reservation. Part of its funding comes from the Bureau of Indian Education, which conducted the independent federal investigation.
The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone business councils requested the bureau open an investigation following “various allegations” against No Runner, including that he had engaged in “sexual harassment, bullying, consumption of alcohol on school property, and creating a toxic environment,” the report states.
The bureau conducted the investigation in March and April. In addition to the former superintendent No Runner, the council also fired K-8 principal Greg Juneau, high school principal Matthew Mortimer, food services supervisor Pattee Bement and school board members William C’Hair, John Goggles, Ronnie Oldman and Eugene Ridge Bear.
Former school board member Dominic Littleshield was not a member at the time of the investigation itself, but was part of the board during the period covered by the investigation.
No Runner had been the school’s superintendent since July 2015 and lived with his family, including his wife and St. Stephens employee Bement, on property leased by the St. Stephens Indian School, the report states.
Multiple witnesses said that No Runner had sexually harassed or bullied them and others and created a toxic work environment where employees were threatened with termination, according to the report. The report states that some of the harassment and bullying took place over social media.
One former employee said she left the school because of this behavior from No Runner and Juneau, the school’s former K-8 principal.
Witnesses who testified for the investigation said No Runner asked current and former students for sexual favors, sometimes in exchange for money.
The investigators found that No Runner used his position as superintendent to influence his subordinates and to give his wife, Bement, a salary and position that was inappropriate. Bement also had frequent absences, the report found.
One witness said that when he complained of this, No Runner told him, “You are not going to fire my wife.”
The investigation also concluded that No Runner had consumed alcohol and used marijuana on school premises or at school-related events, sometimes with other St. Stephens employees.
The report states that Juneau and Bement also used marijuana on school property.
School board members signed off on inappropriate pay increases for employees, and both board members and employees used school funds for personal expenses, the report states.
The investigators also found that the board had failed to dismiss employees with expired state certifications.
The Inter-Tribal Council handed its authority over the school to the Bureau of Indian Education after the investigation and firing of the administrators and board members.
Eastern Shoshone Business Council Chairman John St. Clair said in a statement that this action was “a precautionary effort aimed at protecting our children and community.”
“Our children deserve the best possible education, but that hardly seems possible with the kind of misconduct discussed in this report by the Bureau of Indian Education,” Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Jordan Dresser said in the statement.
St. Clair emphasized that the report is only an administrative investigation. It doesn’t address criminal misconduct.
It’s not clear how the school plans to move forward or how the Bureau of Indian Education will take over the responsibilities of these former employees and board members. St. Clair, Dresser and the school did not respond to the Star-Tribune by press time for further comment.