Lame Deer School Superintendent of Schools fired for pepper spraying a student

Concerned parents show up for a town hall meeting, hosted by Lame Deer Public Schools superintendent Theresa Keel, to hear about what happened during an incident in which she alledgedly sprayed a student in the face with pepper spray. (Courtesy photo)

LAME DEER, Mont. – Recently, the Lame Deer School Board of Trustees took official action to terminate Theresa Keel, Lame Deer Superintendent of Schools.

Board Chairman, William Walksalong confirmed this development on February 5 to Native Sun News Today. “Her conduct was totally unacceptable, unprofessional and dangerous,” he remarked.

That action was based upon the report of an independent investigation into allegations that earlier Superintendent Keel had pepper sprayed a young student in the high school building.

The backdrop to the story is quite fascinating. Keel, a non-Indian, as Walksalong explained is married to a Native from “up North” and has worked at many Indian schools, regularly “moving along” as he said.

He also explained that it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain qualified people who have the necessary credentials to serve as the Superintendent of a Public School, such as Lame Deer, quite remote and faced with many academic challenges. “I was not totally convinced about her,” he shared. “But the Board by majority vote hired her.”

The high school staff, apparently worried about the possibility of violence in the school, has developed a manner of regularly checking student backpacks, normally the duty of the High School Principal. On a given day in late November, the Principal was not at work. Thus, Superintendent Keel took it upon herself to perform the backpack inspection.

Keel was successful in that hunt, discovering a cannister in the backpack of a young female student. The details of what then transpired are somewhat murky, many versions provided. What is clear, however, is that she discovered a cannister in the backpack of a student. It was bear pepper spray rather than Mace which the Superintendent suspected. 

What is also clear is that the young student got pepper sprayed with that very same device by the Superintendent, who somehow found that amusing.

It resulted in a call to the school nurse and tribal EMTs to revive the young girl.

Walksalong, who is also Chief Executive Officer to the Tribe was quickly summoned to the scene where he made an executive decision: placing Teel upon leave with pay, pending an independent investigation. The entire School Board, then summoned to an emergency meeting, backed that decision.

Ms. Keel picked an opportune child to pepper spray. That young girl is the granddaughter of Jennifer Red Fox, one of the most aggressive and vocal community activists in the Northern Cheyenne community, backed by equals. Good idea not to get on their wrong side.

The School Board soon found themselves beset by angry mothers and community members, demanding Teel’s dismissal. Caused quite a ruckus and Facebook dialogue.

William, as the Chair, held his ground. “Though others may not be fair to us, we will be fair to others,” he announced.  “Everyone deserves fair hearing. We all know that some of our relatives do not receive that in the justice system. We, however, can set an example of how these situations should be managed.”

William was right. Though it took more time than Jennifer and other people wanted, the independent reviewers found Keel to be in the wrong.

Thus, she is now down the road, no doubt hunting another Superintendent job at some Indian school which might be seeking a person with credentials.

Predators are everywhere. I guess if I get sued for libel over this column by Ms. Teel, she can get my old Dodge. It is leaking antifreeze anyway. But I think William and Jennifer will back me up on the facts.

(Contact Clara Caufield at

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