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Heart Butte Schools Superintendent is under fire from a concerned parent

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Posted at 10:54 PM, Feb 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-06 10:51:41-05

Jay Young Running Crane, a concerned parent in the Heart Butte School District handed over nearly 20 pages of formal complaints towards Superintendent Mike Tatsey. The quarrel began over a year ago when disciplinary actions were taken against his daughter, according to Jay Young Running Crane. Young Running Crane was not against the school’s actions to handle his daughter’s discipline, yet the procedures the school took to ensure her safety from an older bully.

Fast forward and the straw that broke the camel’s back is when Young Running Crane claims Superintendent Tatsey drug-tested his son without prior notification to him. The reason behind the test was an off-campus issue that was resolved by local law enforcement.

It opened doors and talk around the community that multiple teachers, specifically a new hire had failed a pre-employment drug test.

Young Running Crane did not elaborate on who his sources were, he mentioned that a few people work on the campus of the school. That fear of retaliation would be cast upon them.

When we spoke to Superintendent Tatsey, he assured us that is not the case.

“I would never, and if you read my public statement, I would never allow that to happen to our kids. To have somebody in our school system that's responsible for the safety and well-being of our kids to ever come to work and be under the influence of any type of drug.”

In a publication from The Daily Montanan, Nicole Girten wrote in an article on January 16, 2023, a comment from Tatsey, “’I can guarantee you it ain’t very many that have (tested positive),’ he said in November.”

The Daily Montanan asked for details pertaining to the failed test results and so did we. Superintendent Tatsey told MTN News, those findings are protected under HIPAA law and Montana law and that he cannot release that information. MTN News didn’t push further.

What Tatsey did assure is that the best interest of the children is his only priority.

“I'm here to protect these kids, to make sure that they get the education that they need.”

The concerned parent, Jay Young Running Crane, took matters into his own hands. Writing a formal complaint about the prospective hire’s failed pre-employment drug test.

“…right there that was given to them. And they had this document that if they did test positive if they refused, they cannot apply for a whole year,” said Young Running Crane.

“They” refers to the school board, where he took advised steps to address his interest in the matter. He claims that he handed them the same document listed below.

Complaint from Jay Young Running Crane
Initial complaint that Superintendent Tatsey said he did not receive

Nothing was done about it.

The Heart Butte School District’s “Zero Tolerance Drug Policy” reads as follows for a prospective hire:

“HEART BUTTE SCHOOL DISTRICT will withdraw its job offer for any Conditional Hire who tests positive for controlled substances or alcohol during a post-offer test.

1. The prospective employee will receive a letter from the DER confirming Heart Butte Schools District’s intent to not offer employment again to that employee for a period of one year for the first offense, and the inability to ever again apply at Heart Butte School District for the second offense.

2. If the prospective employee would like to request a hearing in front of the School Board, he/she needs to notify the Superintendent in writing within five business days.”

“…if he would follow these policies. But for us, for me to find out later, you know, this is what's happened. And then from the community and then my own knowledge, knowing that there was people up there working, you know, it's like, oh, man, this is not right.” Young Running Crane explained.

Superintendent Tatsey explained that he never received this complaint and writing.

“The only thing that I will accept and that's what I put in a public statement is if there's known use of a staff member that I am wide open to a submission of a written statement and then I will investigate.”

When examining the Heart Butte School’s Zero Tolerance Drug Policy the title of it can be misleading.

“…within that policy is the opportunity for the administration to provide an opportunity for those staff members that do test positive for any drug to go in and have an assessment done, and then follow through with whatever that assessment says they need to do,” noted Tatsey.

The school administration has the opportunity pending review of the drug testing assessment to off an Employee Assistance Program that could rehabilitate a staff member. Placing them on administrative leave, attending rehab services, and passing mandatory follow-up drug tests.

Tatsey explained that if there were staff members struggling with substance abuse, he wants to give those in that situation the opportunity to overcome their past.

Assuring that no member of the Heart Butte Schools staff is an avid user.

We asked him in the event of community concern that was brought up months prior why he wouldn’t address the situation to the school community and that the situation was handled under the close watch of the administration.

He adamantly responded, “I can't be that open and say we had a situation here. We're dealing with it because that opens the door for all kinds of rumors that could be going on.”

Reporter response. “But it’s just transparency…”

Tatsey answered, “Now we're done. I know. We're done.”

He ended the interview there.

Upon reviewing the privacy policy, when it comes to the protection of the employee, their rights are completely protected under Montana Law between the employer and the testing facility.

Before the interview ended with the Superintendent, he addressed the black clouds cast upon the Blackfeet community by these claims.

“I'm happy. I'm proud of our school. I'm proud of our students. I'm proud of our staff. I'm proud of our community for standing up.” Tatsey added.

Jay Young Running Crane also shared that he didn’t want to have to be the one to bring this matter to light. Yet, he was happy it fell into his lap to do justice for the kids.

“For all the good he did. I’ll stand in line and shake his hand. But for all the bad he’s doing now, I’ll stand in line, ready to kick his butt too, like everybody else.”

The Heart Butte School District is doing many positive things aside from what might be portrayed in the media now. Superintendent Tatsey explained that they are making strides in creating their own solar energy to provide for the school. They also were one of the only school districts to have a group home that housed homeless students in the community, before it was shut down in the last 10 days and started a program offering after-school meals for those in need.

Despite the negativity that has come from these claims, resilience for the betterment of the children will always prevail.

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