Thanks to one of the Project RACE Board of Directors for supplying the entire story. It is very important that the Department of Justice is considering allegations of racial harassment against a biracial student.
Feds ask for Pine Creek School information
The Department of Justice is investigating allegations of race- and disability-based harassment at Pine Creek School.
In a recent letter to a school official, the DOJ requested records related to a biracial former student of the school and some “alleged harassers” there, along with information on a teacher who recently resigned in relation to bullying concerns. The DOJ also requested information on the school’s bullying policies.
The Sept. 11 letter is addressed to Pine Creek School District Board Chairwoman Jane Tecca and Billings-based attorney Jeff Weldon, who has represented the district during its own recent investigation of bullying.
The district this spring investigated a complaint from parent Pamela Goodwine, who alleged her biracial son had been bullied at the school. Goodwine is employed at the school as a custodian.
The investigation focused on third- through fifth-grade teacher Leah Shannon, who was accused of allowing bullying in her classroom. An outside investigator found that bullying was systemic at the school, affecting Goodwine’s son and others. As a result, the district negotiated a paid resignation with Shannon in August.
The September DOJ inquiry does not say who filed the race and disability complaint. The department did not respond by press time to a Thursday morning request for more information.
The DOJ inquiry also requests correspondences and other information related to Goodwine’s employment at the school.
The letter stresses the inquiry is preliminary in nature and that it has not determined any violation of federal law has occurred.
Weldon said Wednesday he expects the school board’s recent action regarding Goodwine’s complaint — which in addition to negotiating Shannon’s resignation included revamping some school policies — will work in the district’s favor during the federal inquiry.
He said he has seen few federal investigations Montana schools in his career.
“In Montana, just because I think we’re a relatively small state, we don’t see a lot of them,” he said.
Pine Creek Superintendent Shawn Wiencek on Wednesday raised concerns about the costs to the district of continuing to deal with an issue she felt the district had resolved.
“It’s beyond my comprehension, at this juncture, how we’ll pay for this,” Wiencek said.
The district paid Shannon $71,000 to resign, and paid Weldon about $17,000 for his recent work. The small rural school has an enrollment of 22 students.
Weldon, who the school pays $175 an hour, will oversee the response to the DOJ request.
The DOJ gave the school 30 days to respond to its inquiry.