KYLE, S.D. The tribal court has ordered Oglala Lakota College to allow three students banned from campus to return to classes.
Aug. 31, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court granted several requests for preliminary injunctions against Oglala Lakota College for banning former students, Gilbert Bad Wound and Charlie and Lisa Smoke, from college campuses. Pine Ridge College Center wouldnt allow Mr. Gilbert to enroll. OLC President Tom Short Bull said he cant speak about the case because its in litigation.
Mr. Short Bull did say the students were pretty adamant that their rights were violated, but that the institution has the right to protect its students when another student becomes violent. He refused to elaborate on that statement.
According to the Lakota Student Alliance, the students were banished from OLC for speaking against the misconduct and behavior of certain teachers and staff members.
In addition, the alliance issued a statement that the students never received hearings for allegations against them, allegations they say occurred as early as 1996.
Mr. Short Bull said the students were offered hearings but theyve chosen instead to resolve the issues in tribal court. He also said OLC only takes action when all other recourse is exhausted, especially when disruptive behavior is involved.
Mr. Short Bull said, adding that he was not at liberty to discuss the issues in further detail.
In the case of Mr. Bad Wound, an Oglala Sioux Tribal member, court documents allege that he went to the Pine Ridge College Center (a branch of OLC) with his mother and his attorney, Michael P. Acosta, to enroll. He said Evelyn Eagle Bull, the director of the center, refused to accept his enrollment papers, saying he had been barred from campus.
Court documents revealed a meeting was held without Mr. Bad Wounds knowledge and that the local board for the Pine Ridge Center, chaired by Dennis Brewer, barred Mr. Bad Wound from campus April 6. The letter which Mr. Bad Wound received stated, you are hereby requested to remain away, and was signed by Mr. Brewer.
This was news to him, Mr. Bad Wound said. The college had not informed him of the meeting. His attorney, Mr. Acosta, said OLC denied his client the right to due process as explained in the Oglala Lakota College handbook.
Mr. and Mrs. Smoke were barred from classes at Pejuta Haka, the main college located near Kyle. They too claim they were denied due process.
Guilty by association, Mr. Smoke said about why his wife was barred. My wife didnt do anything. She filed a complaint in tribal court against (OLC President) Tom Short Bull awhile back, but nothing was ever done about it by the court.
Mr. Smoke said he was barred because he had made complaints against certain faculty members and that former OLC Vice-President John Haas turned it around and made it look like the faculty had filed the complaints against Mr. Smoke.
John Haas said there were many complaints against me for misconduct and disruptive behavior, Mr. Smoke said. These complaints dont exist. Ive never been disruptive or anything related to that kind of behavior. If John Haas has these papers, then hes in contempt of court for not providing them to our attorney.
In both cases, the students were barred from OLC by local board members without the presence or knowledge of the students.
All three students have since been allowed back on campus because of the court orders, but Mr. Smoke had special stipulations attached to their admittance.
OLC Vice President Devonna LoneWolf wrote Mr. Smoke a letter acknowledging he could attend classes only and when his classes are finished he immediately leave OLC grounds, You are not allowed to utilize OLC offices, phones, etc. Also your children can not be taken to the classes you attend, she wrote in her letter to Mr. Smoke.
Twyla Turney, a former OLC student, said she was barred from classes in December 1997, without recourse. She said her education has been on hold for more than a year, a time frame which exceeds the required six-month suspension outlined in the college policy manual.
She said OLC Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Conroy told her she, could not register for classes at any college center.
They were only supposed to bar me for six months. I was never given a fair hearing. I was never aware that they were going to have a meeting to bar me, Ms. Turney said. They said I was barred because of a second misconduct. I wanted to know what my first and my second was. I have no idea what theyre talking about. I never did anything.
I asked for copies of the misconduct reports and nobody knows anything about any misconduct reports against me. Nobody can find any paperwork on misconduct, she said. I called (attorney) Charlie Abourezk, he said he didnt handle these kinds of cases and gave me a number. The person at that number couldnt help me. I went to the legal aid (and) Pru Hawk said there was nothing I could do. I went to Charlotte Black Elk. She said she was too busy.
Its unfair (OLC) doing this to the students. I dont know what the college is after. The staff at the college or at any other college in this country has to remember if it werent for the student they wouldnt have a job. They wouldnt be pulling in a paycheck, she said.
Theyve got to listen to both sides of the story. They cant just go and say that an employee said this or said that and bar the student. Any student has a right to a fair hearing. A lot of these students are scared, they dont want to make waves. Im opposite, Ill stand up for injustice. Im not going to back down. I want to get back into college.