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Parent of Harrison school students speaks out in wake of controversy

Harrison Public Schools
Posted at 8:46 PM, May 22, 2024

HARRISON — In small towns across Montana, schools like the one in Harrison are often the heart of the community. But a parent says that the school and community are trying to heal after the recent arrest of the school's superintendent on obstruction of justice charges when she allegedly tried to prevent officers from interviewing students in an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct involving an unlicensed teacher.

"Our school is really community minded; it has to be. It’s the heart of the community," says Heather Ohs, the mother of two students at the school.

The Class C school has about 100 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, and Ohs says the small class size has allowed a special bond between students. But, she noticed a change in her kids and other students after a new teacher was hired in January.

"It was at that point with the inception of him coming into our classrooms that we as parents started to notice some changes in the school," says Ohs.

She says children began telling their parents about interactions with the new teacher that sounded troubling.

"A teacher was hired at Harrison to teach who is a convicted felon, does not have a teaching certificate nor does he have a provisional license that he was working towards, and it created havoc," says Ohs.

The teacher was fired in April but the trouble continued. Ohs says the teacher called her daughter and another student and made vile threats after his termination.

"I believe that was the triggering factor that got the Department of Criminal Investigation to the front doors of our school to begin interviewing students, not because they did anything wrong," says Ohs.

According to a social media post made by the Madison County Sheriff's Office, the students are considered victims of alleged crimes. Charging documents state that Sharyl Allen prevented agents from interviewing students and was arrested for obstruction of justice at the end of April. Allen has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will be in court in July.

Nikki Edmundson, a school board trustee at Harrison Public Schools, confirmed that on May 14 Allen was placed on paid administrative leave until her contract runs out at the end of June.

Edmundson says a special meeting will be held on May 29 to appoint a third board trustee. The school is still accepting letters of intent for the position.

"As a parent, the reason that is so troubling is these kids need to be seen and heard so there’s reasons if the student is the victim that police are able to come into schools and provide that service," says Ohs.

In a press release issued by Sharyl Allen’s campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Allen is depicted as a champion of parental rights but Heather Ohs doesn’t buy it.

"I think about Ms. Allen’s campaign where she talks about her motto is, she’s battling for the minds and hearts of children and I simply think that’s so misaligned," says Ohs. "I think that’s for parents and a community and a church to battle for, and as an educator and an administrator I would encourage her to battle for quality education and for protection and lastly, some accountability."