BILLINGS — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint on behalf of four Pryor basketball fans who said they were denied early entry to a high school basketball game hosted at Reed Point High School because of their race.
Reed Point superintendent Mike Ehinger said he investigated the incident and found no evidence of discrimination.
The Gazette spoke with Elsworth Goes Ahead earlier this year about the Jan. 21 incident; he said that he, his wife and two other Plenty Coups High School fans heard a Reed Point employee say that only white fans were being admitted early while the group waited for the school to let fans in before a basketball game.
A Gazette reporter was invited by several Pryor residents to a community meeting about a week after the incident, but was asked to leave by Bryce Hugs, the Pryor school board chair. Several school board members were present.
The ACLU, which declined to comment on the matter earlier this year, filed the complaint with the Human Rights Bureau on Monday over the Reed Point incident.
Ehinger also spoke to the Gazette about a week after the incident. He said that security camera footage showed a Reed Point employee letting in a bus driver from Rapelje, who was delivering athletes. He said the employee said that she didn't recall saying anything to Pryor fans waiting outside.
Goes Ahead said his wife heard differently.
“She was explaining to him that they didn’t have any workers there yet and they were only letting the white people in," he previously told the Gazette.
“We were stunned by her choice of words. We didn’t know how to react. We waited for the doors to be opened and then we went in.”
The Goes Ahead couple emailed Ehinger on Jan. 24 laying out their complaint, in documents provided by Ehinger. The email identified Reed Point's athletic director and said the whole group could hear her comments.
"We hope that this situation will be handled in a fair and appropriate manner and would like to be informed of what course of action will be taken. We trust that you will address the matter at hand and the appropriate measures will be taken," the email says.
Ehinger responded the same day, noting that his investigation wasn't complete.
"Let me also take this opportunity and apologize," he wrote. "The investigation and outcomes aside, you felt mistreated (and that's understating it I am sure) and that matters a lot to me. We work hard to put on quality events and want everyone to feel welcome to come and support their teams.
"Clearly, that was not the outcome this time for you," he continued. "We value our relationship with the Crow Tribe and the people from Pryor who represent Plenty Coups High School and I surely don't want to see that tainted. What matters to me is that we resolve this the best we can and then look toward keeping our relationship on solid grounds going forward."
Ehinger previously told the Gazette that a custodian, who was unaware of usual pregame admittance policies, let a small group of Pryor fans into the school before Goes Ahead's group arrived. Ehinger said that might have created some confusion.
A release from the ACLU refers to Goes Ahead, his wife, Brandy, and two other fans as "the Pryor Four."
The release also says that the group waited on a cold winter night; Goes Ahead said he arrived at about 3:20 p.m. The release also notes a letter that the group sent to Ehinger, and says an administrator responded on a Reed Point school Facebook page instead of responding directly to the group.
A pair of existing Reed Point school pages don't currently contain such a post; a high school page was created in March.
"The ACLU stands with Indigenous communities around the state to push back against this very harmful conduct," said ACLU executive director Caitlin Borgmann in the release.
ACLU indigenous justice outreach coordinator Meg Singer invited Elsworth and Brandy Goes Ahead to address the Native American Race Relations and Healing Lecture Series at the Billings Public Library on Feb. 9.
In response to a Gazette article about the event, which didn't identify Reed Point, Ehinger emailed a statement, saying no one from the ACLU had contacted the school.