Keila Szpaller

(Daily Montanan) Sharyl Allen, who is running as a Republican candidate for Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, is facing a charge that she obstructed a peace officer conducting a criminal investigation at a school in Madison County.

Allen is principal-superintendent for Harrison Public School.

A special board meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday said trustees would consider “possible action regarding contract of employment of superintendent.” That portion of the meeting may be closed.

Allen could not be reached for comment Monday. She had not yet filed a plea or been given bail conditions as of early afternoon Monday, according to Madison County Justice Court.

Court records said Allen’s bond amount was $1,000, and she is scheduled to appear before a justice of the peace on May 7.

During the investigation, Allen invoked her relationship with Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, according to the complaint. The Attorney General’s Office said doing so was inappropriate.

The Missoulian first reported the charge against Allen, who is running against Susie Hedalen, Townsend superintendent, in the Republican primary to head the Office of Public Instruction.

Harrison Public School declined to comment on the status of Allen prior to the special meeting. The chairperson of the local board could not be reached Monday through a message relayed by a person who answered the school phone.

The complaint filed against Allen said a peace officer observed her obstruct a criminal investigation on April 22 by “unlawfully preventing” Montana Department of Criminal Investigations Agent Tyler Brant and Madison County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Wes Heavrin from interviewing students who are potential crime victims.

“(Allen) prevented law enforcement from completing these interviews, citing a need for parental consent,” said the complaint filed April 23. “Allen also instructed staff of the Harrison School to contact parents prior to any interviews being conducted.

“Miss Allen referenced to Brant and Heavrin she had a working relationship with Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and his Chief of Staff Will Selph, as well as other attorneys affiliated with Knudsen.”

In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office said DCI and other law enforcement officers were doing their jobs during the investigation.

“The alleged comments made by Sharyl Allen regarding her relationship with the Attorney General and his staff were inappropriate,” said a statement to which a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office directed the Daily Montanan. “The Attorney General does not condone this type of behavior.”

The investigators were at the school to look into allegations a teacher committed “criminal acts involving students,” according to a notice from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

Posted to social media April 26, the notice said the teacher under investigation was terminated on April 16. It stressed that the students are possible crime victims.

“Due to the seriousness of the allegations and need for additional law enforcement resources, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation was requested to assist in the investigation and are now the lead agency,” said the notice.

The Sheriff’s Office did not have additional information Monday and could not comment on the nature of the allegations. DCI could not be reached for comment.

Harrison Public School is advertising on its website for a “dynamic, student-centered” superintendent-principal for the 2024-2025 school year. The special meeting Monday afternoon also had superintendent-principal interviews on the agenda.

The Missoulian reported the school board had been contemplating whether to renew Allen’s contract, and she told them she would not return; she told the newspaper she needed to focus on caring for a family member.

Harrison had a population of 105 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census. Prior to taking on the superintendent role at Harrison Public School, Allen served as deputy superintendent for the Office of Public Instruction.

Allen did not previously respond to questions from the Daily Montana about her departure from OPI.

She earlier left education jobs in Montana and Arizona under controversial circumstances, including after multiple petitions were filed from parents calling for her termination, as the Daily Montana earlier reported.