Jan 4, 2012 11:04 AM by Drew Trafton

Fromberg school board to investigate sexual harassment

BILLINGS- After nearly two hours of listening to and discussing sexual harassment allegations, the Fromberg School board of trustees voted to suspend their superintendent with pay while they investigate the instances in further detail.

Gary Scott, the 3rd year superintendent of the Fromberg School District, was accused Tuesday night of sexual harassment by a former student, a current senior in high school at Fromberg High School and a teacher at the school.

Most of the meeting was held in executive session, meaning the public was not allowed to be present.

The board justified the session by calling it a protection measure for both the accusers and Scott.

But while the board listened to those accusations individually, the interested public was not far away, as about 15 members of the community sat outside the school's library waiting to hear the decision from the board.

"I don't see him as a positive influence to the school or the students," said 2011 Fromberg High School graduate Kylee Gruel.

Gruel was in the clear majority Tuesday night of those waiting in the hallway, saying that the three people making statements at the special board meeting were hardly alone in harboring complaints about Scott.

"I know plenty of people who have moved away from this school because of him (Scott) and his actions," said Gruel.

Others gathered in support of the investigation told Q2 the school had seen students leave over the past year due to actions by the superintendent and that Scott had burned several bridges in the community.

When the meeting opened up to the public upon the board preparing it's decision, those hoping to see action taken against the superintendent liked what they heard.

However, the vote to suspend the superintendent was far from unanimous--a split 3-2 amongst the board, with one of the dissenters being board chairman Jerry Paugh.

Paugh says he was not in support of the suspension because the legal counsel for the board (Jeff Weldon of Felt, Martin, Fraizer and Weldon, P.C.) did not recommend the board suspend Scott.

"It leaves gray area in my mind," said Paugh.

Part of that uncertainty involves filling in the voids which Scott leaves behind in his absence.

"Our superintendent teaches classes, he actually does janitorial work here," said Paugh. "It's going to be a great hardship."

Another part of that hardship, investigating the allegations of sexual harassment against Scott, will fall on the shoulders of Felt, Martin, Fraizer and Weldon, P.C..

The firm represents the school board in Fromberg and specializes in Montana school law.

As for making decisions at the school district during the suspension, Paugh says the board will consult the county superintendent, Jerry Scott, who is an elected official.

Paugh says Weldon told the board that similar investigations have taken the firm about 3 to 4 weeks to complete.


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