The gymnasium at the Wolf Creek School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Wolf Creek Warriors - Oglala Lakota County School District
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Lakota students released after being arrested and handcuffed by tribal police




Pine Ridge student tested negative for drugs, according to grandfather

'He was shook up about it'
By Kevin Abourezk
@Kevin_Abourezk

Most of a group of 13 students from the Wolf Creek School on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation have returned home after being arrested and taken to a hospital in handcuffs Thursday morning following allegations of drug trafficking, according to the grandfather of one of the students.

Dan Rodriguez, 59, whose grandson was among those taken into custody, said parents and grandparents of the 2 seventh- and 11 eighth-graders met with the school’s superintendent, Dr. Anthony Fairbanks, on Friday morning outside of the tribe’s Justice Center just south of Pine Ridge. He said Fairbanks apologized for the incident and promised to work to get the students released.

“He started apologizing,” Rodriguez said.

He said the school sent a small bus to pick up the students from the Juvenile Detention Center in Kyle -- more than 40 miles northeast of Pine Ridge -- on Friday afternoon and brought all of the students back, except one.

The students had been arrested after school officials believed one or more of them had been selling pills to the others. Tribal police took the students to the Pine Ridge Hospital, an Indian Health Service facility, where they were tested for chemicals in their blood and urine. Rodriguez said his grandson’s tests showed negative results for drugs.

He said he doesn’t know whether his grandson has been charged with a crime.

Mark Mesteth, interim police chief for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, declined to comment on the students’ arrests Thursday and couldn’t be reached for comment on Saturday.

"As we move forward, district administrators and I plan on discussions with law enforcement officials to positively strengthen our respective protocols and communications," Dr. Anthony Fairbanks, the superintendent of the Oglala Lakota County School District, told Indianz.Com in a statement. "Our intent is to prevent this kind of incident from ever happening again as we continue prioritizing the overall safety and support of our students.

Janne Rodriguez, Dan Rodriguez’s wife, said she was at the hospital Thursday and questioned why hospital officials tested the students’ blood and urine without their parents’ or guardians’ consent.

“They did that without the consent of the parents,” she told Indianz.Com on Thursday evening. “That really concerned me.”


Dan Rodriguez said the students’ families are now considering legal action against the school, the tribal police department and the Indian Health Service.

He said his grandson hasn’t spoken about the incident since returning home Friday afternoon.

“I don’t think he wants to talk about it,” he said. “He was shook up about it.”

He said he doesn’t know yet whether his grandson will return to Wolf Creek School.

“His mom isn’t sure yet whether she’ll send him to school on Monday,” he said. “She’s pretty pissed off.”

Separately, Lakota Country Times reported on the arrests and detention of the students in a story posted on Facebook on Friday afternoon. The independent newspaper, which is based on the Pine Ridge Reservation, also posted what it said were the results of one of the drug tests. It showed that the student tested negative for a variety of drugs.

The full statement from Dr. Fairbanks, the superintendent of the Oglala Lakota County School District, about the incident follows:
We are still assessing the situation and events leading up to the arrests. We cannot comment on the details of the arrests, but I can tell you that once the law enforcement officers arrived at the school, they had their own protocol to follow.

The Oglala Lakota County School District Security Director and I went to Pine Ridge that evening in an attempt to get the students released, but were unable to speak with the proper authorities. We returned the next morning and met with the Oglala Sioux Tribal Chief of Police, the Attorney General and the Judge to coordinate the release of our students. We traveled by school bus to the detention center immediately after attaining the release documents for 12 students. We then brought the students safely home to their parents.

As we move forward, district administrators and I plan on discussions with law enforcement officials to positively strengthen our respective protocols and communications. Our intent is to prevent this kind of incident from ever happening again as we continue prioritizing the overall safety and support of our students.

Related Stories:
Lakota grandmother shocked after students arrested, handcuffed (February 8, 2018)