In the federal report alleging sexual misconduct and other wrongful behavior at St. Stephen’s Indian School, two staff members were incorrectly implicated, according to participants at a press conference and one former school board member.
Following a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) report completed in April, the Intertribal Business Council, which is the joint governing body of the Wind River Indian Reservation, voted to fire the entire St. Stephen’s Indian School Board. It also voted to fire elementary school principal Greg Juneau, superintendent Frank No Runner, meals supervisor Pattee Bement, and high school principal Matt Mortimore.
Whether the tribal government had the authority to fire staffers at St. Stephen’s is not certain. The school is a private 501c3 corporation on private land within reservation boundaries.
Individuals have since approached Cowboy State Daily and other media outlets to say they believe Mortimore and his wife Macey Mortimore, an administrator at the school, were not guilty of the accusations leveled against them by the Bureau of Indian Education and dispatched to the press May 9 by the council.
The Mortimores were alleged to have attended a party in 2017 at which a teenage girl danced topless on a table, according to a written statement by a BIE witness who refused to testify verbally.
Juneau and No Runner also were named in connection with the party, which was reportedly at No Runner’s home. The two were linked to additional claims of sexual harassment, drug use on and off campus, and misspending of school funds. No Runner was accused of nepotism.
Neither No Runner nor Juneau responded immediately to voicemails requesting comment.
Six people involved with the school, including five staff members, held a press conference Wednesday evening by virtual link. The individuals expressed frustration with what they called inaccuracies in the BIE report.
‘They Were That School’
“I’m not sure the entirety of that report was accurate,” said a participant at the press conference who said they preferred to remain anonymous out of a fear of being “targeted” by people in power or other community members.
“We, I know, 100 percent, do not believe the things that were written about Matt and Macey; we felt confident in their leadership,” the participant continued. “They ran that school. They were that school. Macey, to the last minute, was in there making sure kids got graduated.”
The same source said the BIE investigation did not follow up with the Mortimores sufficiently and took witness testimony against them at face value with little additional research.
Neither the BIE nor the council responded by Thursday morning to emails requesting comment.
Staff Member Of The Year
Matt Mortimore was notified of his termination in May via news release, along with other staffers who were fired.
Macey Mortimore was able to continue working at the school, even winning the “staff member of the year” award in mid-May. But on Friday she was informed she’d been placed on unpaid suspension by an education panel of tribal officials who are overseeing the school in the absence of its elected board.
The stepparent of a St. Stephen’s student said at the press conference they did not believe the Mortimores committed the alleged misdeeds, adding that the students and school relied on the pair heavily.
“Just seeing Matt and Macey’s name(s) and knowing that it’s not true, it’s just not fair to everybody that’s involved,” said the source.
“Losing Matt and Macey (at the school) felt like a death,” said a third participant at the press conference. However, the speakers emphasized that they did not intend to defend No Runner or Juneau.
An individual at the press conference noted that Matt Mortimore had been on leave prior to the report’s completion.
Three additional individuals who did not attend the press conference, two of whom were independent of one another, confirmed that Mortimore had been placed on administrative leave in March to seek alcohol treatment voluntarily.
Board Member Recollection
Dominic Littleshield, a former school board member who served during the events alleged, also doubted the Mortimores’ involvement in the sexual misconduct alleged in the report.
“I don’t know why Matt Mortimore is in (the report),” Littleshield said in a phone interview with Cowboy State Daily the week the report was released.
He said Mortimore didn’t fit the behavior description.
“They’ve never gone to the parties” featuring lewd activity, Littleshield continued. “Him and his wife too, Macey… I don’t think those two were even there.”
The BIE is slated to take over the school in the coming days, as part of a federal “retrocession” process by which tribal governments can request federal takeover of other organizations serving tribal members.
All staff members were told last week by BIE officials that they will have to reapply for their own jobs, in a pool open to competitors nationwide, press conference sources stated.