Montana education officials revoked the license of an ex-Hardin art teacher convicted of crimes related to hiding a gun in school for a student and then lying to investigators about the incident.
Nora Block was arrested on Jan. 31, 2018, later fired and then convicted of a felony and misdemeanor crime. A jury hung on charges of possessing a weapon on school grounds. The student who originally brought the gun to school was also prosecuted.
Block was not represented at the revocation hearing Nov. 7.
The move's timing was unusual for the Board of Public Education, the governing body that has the power to revoke educator licenses and set other education policy. Block's license had expired in June, and according to OPI lawyer Julia Swingley, education officials couldn't recall a previous attempt to revoke a license that had already expired.
Swingley argued that the move was necessary to make sure the revocation shows up in a national teacher licensure database, likely preventing Block from earning a teaching license in a different state. Board attorney Rob Stutz also signed off on the move.
"The only way it can be reported is if there is a revocation," Swingley said, while acknowledging that a criminal background check or basic web search would likely produce information hindering employment as a teacher.
The revocation process was started before Block's license expired, Swingley said.
There was some confusion at the hearing about whether Block and OPI had earlier agreed to only a suspension of her license. Swingley initially said that she "had an agreement that (Block) would agree to a suspension of her license, but she has not provided back the documentation that I provided to her to give back to fill out to this board."
Swingley later clarified that she discussed only a suspension as a possibility with Block during a pre-hearing phone call. Block had said that she was done with teaching and didn't want to deal with a revocation hearing, according to Swingley.
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Officials cited a Montana law that prohibits "immoral conduct" as the statute that justified the revocation of Block's license.
School officials responded to a report that Uttekaat Isaiah Jade Birdinground, a student, had a gun at school and was sitting in Block's classroom Jan. 26, 2018.
Birdinground, 17, was arrested days after the incident and charged with felony attempted robbery and two misdemeanors, carrying a concealed weapon and having a weapon in a school building.
According to charging documents, Birdinground had come into the school that Friday and sat in Block’s classroom nearly three hours before he was removed by a teacher. He did not attend his regular classes that day; he was not registered in Block’s class.
No gun was found on the student, but sheriff's deputies returned to the school Saturday and were told Block had found the gun while cleaning the classroom, according to the charges.
On Monday, Jan. 29, another student interviewed by officers said he had found the gun Friday and had given it to the teacher. Block declined to be interviewed that day, but came to a meeting later that night and told school officials she had lied about finding the gun, the documents state.
The school principal told investigators Block admitted to leaving the gun in her desk overnight, then on Saturday taking the gun out of her desk and placing it under a student's desk before reporting the weapon found.