WYOLA — Normally the Wyola School would be busy on a Tuesday afternoon, but not this week. Classes were canceled with no reason provided by school administrators.
This stems from recent tension between the school and parents, who each allege misconduct on the other's part.
“It’s just a difficult fight. But us parents aren’t going to stop," said Nina Hill, a parent of four students at Wyola School on the southern end of the Crow reservation, on Tuesday. "We’ve had people stop before and nothing has been done.”
These are questions on many Wyola parents' minds this week. Children haven't been to school since last Friday, after alleged abusive behavior from staff and teachers, including grabbing kids by the arm and calling them degrading names.
“With everything going on it’s kind of getting a little bit dramatic at the school. They’re not willing to talk to us, they’re not trying to negotiate anything with us. They’re not trying to approach the situation professionally," Hill said. "So there are avenues that we’re taking. Even the superintendent of schools is not trying to address this. It’s just really worrisome because I’m afraid for my kids to go back to school."
Another parent, Kristi Old Coyote, said something needs to change.
"Our rights are being violated," Old Coyote said on Tuesday. "Our children's rights are being violated."
Old Coyote is one of the parents alleging misconduct, but school officials say it's her who physically abused a teacher last week.
MTN News learned late Tuesday afternoon that Old Coyote was charged in Crow Tribal Court Friday with multiple misdemeanors related to an alleged assault of a staff member at the school. She pleaded not guilty and posted bond.
Old Coyote told MTN News the allegations against her weren't true and that no physical altercation took place.
"We are on the move and we're not going to quit because our children deserve an education," Old Coyote said.
The battle between the two groups continued Tuesday when school was canceled for no apparent reason.
“We’re in the blind. We don’t know what’s going on," Hill said. "We don’t know why they shut the school. We just want things resolved."
MTN reached out to numerous individuals and agencies for comment on the cancellation. John Small, the Big Horn County superintendent of schools, did answer a Tuesday call, but his office said they have no comment. The Wyola district clerk and board chairperson have no direct line, and a voicemail for the school has not yet been returned.
"I’ve heard rumors, but that’s all it is, is rumors. We don’t know exactly why they closed the school,” Hill said.
MTN went out to the school Tuesday afternoon to try and learn the reasoning behind the cancellation. No one answered the door.
Last Thursday, the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) told MTN it has received second-hand accounts of issues in Wyola but no formal complaints.
Still, questions remain unanswered. But for parents like Nina Hill and Kristi Old Coyote, one thing’s for certain.
“I’m not willing to leave Wyola. That’s my home. That’s where I was raised,” Hill said. “We want our school back. We want our kids to be safe and we want them to feel safe."