A group of at least 50 parents and Crow Tribe members showed up Tuesday night at the Hardin School Board meeting and asked for the resignation of Superintendent Al Peterson, a board trustee said.
Peterson is the superintendent of School District 17 and High School District 1 - which serve about 1,700 total students, mostly in the Hardin area - and vice president of Two Rivers Authority, Hardin's economic development arm that until recently was trying to sign a contract with American Police Force to fill the empty, 464-bed Two Rivers Detention Facility.
The parents took issue with recent comments Peterson made in The Billings Gazette about Big Horn County Sheriff Lawrence "Pete" Big Hair and with his involvement in the failed deal with APPF. Peterson called Big Hair "the biggest drunk in the county."
"The parents were angry because they feel that the superintendent needs to make a better choice," said Trustee Clarice Denny. "They said, 'Do you want to be a warden or do you want to be our superintendent?' "
Peterson and board Chairman Richard Imer could not be reached Tuesday evening for comment.
The outburst from the group - which included Crow Tribe legislators and a member of the tribal executive branch - was not on the meeting's agenda. Instead, they spoke for about an hour during the designated "community comment" portion of the meeting, Denny said.
According to Denny, Peterson declined to resign when the crowd asked him to do so. The parents then asked the board to remove him from his position. No action was taken on Tuesday's request because the board needs to discuss all options on the table, Denny said.
"The School Board has to make a decision," she said. "We're going to have to discuss it because, the parents, they're not going to let it be forgotten, so we will need to take some kind of action on that."
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 in Fort Smith.
For several weeks, Peterson was the TRA's spokesman in its dealings with APF. After the background of APF's public face Michael Hilton came to light, including felony convictions, time spent in prison in California and 17 aliases, APF backed out of the contract talks.