Lusk School Board Member Censured For Online 'Threat' To District Employee

A Niobrara County School Board member was censured after telling an employee, “I hope you never piss anyone off,” and that she had intel that could cause the employee trouble.

Clair McFarland

June 19, 20246 min read

Niobrara County School District 1 board member Joyce Hammer.
Niobrara County School District 1 board member Joyce Hammer. (Niobrara County School District; Facebook)

A school board in Lusk, Wyoming, has censured one of its elected members for threatening a school employee.

The Niobrara County School District No. 1 board of trustees voted 5-4 on June 10 to censure Trustee Joyce Hammer for a private Facebook message Hammer sent to a school employee, Erin Hodge.

“I hope you never piss anyone off. A couple of videos sent to me could really cause you and your girls some problems,” Hammer’s message read, according to the board’s censure statement and Hammer’s own account of the incident.

A five-person majority of the school board found Hammer’s message threatening and offensive, and deemed it outside its communication ethics standards.

Hammer did not apologize for the post, telling Cowboy State Daily she did nothing wrong, and that her message to the employee was meant as a warning and an effort to keep a compromising video off Facebook, not as a threat.

“Threatening is when you say, ‘I will post this, unless …’” Hammer said in her Wednesday interview, citing definitions she said she gleaned from her attorney. “Bullying is the act of doing it over and over and over."

Hammer said she’s done neither of those things.

In The Video

Hammer said the video involved Hodge drinking with school students. Cowboy State Daily was unable to obtain the video by publication time.

Hammer said she had it at one time, but has since deleted it.

Speaking to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday, Hodge said no one has sent her the alleged video, but she theorized it’s a video her daughter took of her earlier this year, during a casual gathering at which Hodge had a beer in front of her.

She said she and one of her daughters, and another mom with two daughters, went to visit a mutual friend earlier this year in a home gathering. Hodge had a beer in front of her, but the teen girls in the video were not drinking – they were singing, she said.  

For Kids

Hodge said Hammer’s private message to her came the day after she disagreed with Hammer’s account of school controversies on Facebook.

She “absolutely” took it as a threat, she said.

“I didn’t know what she was talking about,” said Hodge, adding that she has four kids and three of them are girls. “I locked my doors that night, and we live on a ranch. I didn’t really know what could come from her.”

District Superintendent George Mirich told Cowboy State Daily that the censure against Hammer was a board decision, but added that a person would be “hard-pressed” not to see Hammer’s private message to the employee as a threat.

“The worst part about this is, we’re supposed to be about and doing what’s best for kids,” said Mirich. “And somewhere that gets lost — especially with her actions and the things she does. And it’s actually kind of sad that somewhere along the lines, some of these people forgot what our real purpose was.”

The five board members who voted to censure Hammer were Board Chair Lexie Ashurst, Treasurer Katie Kruse, Clerk Cheryl Lund, Vice-Chair Amber Smith and Trustee Jeremy Nelson.

But First, The $20,000 Complaint

This is not the first time controversy has followed Hammer’s actions.

In December 2023, Hammer submitted a complaint about the school district’s special education department to the Wyoming Department of Education. She had alleged that one special education teacher refrained from teaching a required reading program because she didn’t like it, and the administration “glossed it over,” according to an investigation decision letter the Wyoming Department of Education sent Tuesday to Cowboy State Daily.

The WDE’s decision does not list Hammer by name, but Hammer has confirmed to Cowboy State Daily that she was the complainant.

From 55 students on individualized education plans (IEPs), WDE chose a 20% sample of 11 student files, including one student from each grade, for its investigation. None of those IEPs mandated, or even mentioned, the reading program in question, says WDE’s decision letter.

Nine of the 11 IEPs complied with federal standards.

Two of the students’ files documented specifically designed math instruction, though the IEPs didn’t mandate such instruction, says the decision.

WDE found the district out of compliance for “goal development” for focused math teaching that wasn’t mandated by a clear goal in the two students’ IEPs.

This finding reflects that the school district was doing “too much,” not too little, some of Hammer’s critics have posted to social media.

Mirich said the finding reflects a semantics dispute, “more or less,” that was unearthed during a systematic search for the allegations behind Hammer’s complaints, and that Hammer’s complaints were unfounded.

He also noted that participating in the investigation cost the district more than $8,000.

WDE spokeswoman Linda Finnerty said that for the state’s part, the investigation cost $12,000 in public money from federal, not state sources.

Between the district and the state together, the investigation cost more than $20,000 in public funds, reportedly. That figure doesn’t include the time the district’s non-attorney staffers spent compiling documents, Mirich said.

Earlier Complaints

Mirich said the district has “dealt with” six complaints in the past five or six years, and all have been found groundless. He said Hammer has been involved with them to some extent, dating back to before her board service began about two-and-a-half years ago.

Hammer denied that, saying she’s only filed the December complaint and was not involved in the others.

Hammer characterized her censure and other critiques of her service as a witch hunt to get her off the board.

“A censure means nothing. It gave to the public (the notion) that I was a bad person. But it doesn’t stop anything,” said Hammer, who has vowed in a post to her social media group “School Issues” to stay on the board.

One district employee, Sam Miller, posted a petition amassing signatures to send Gov. Mark Gordon a request to remove Hammer from the board. At least 46 people signed it, and Miller announced May 31 that she’d sent the letter.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter