*editor’s note: this story mentions acts of sexual violence
Frances Danger/Mvskoke Media Contributor
“Can I pull your hair?”
It’s a question that a 60-year-old faculty member asked an 18-year-old student in the halls of Morris High School in Morris, Oklahoma.
The Morris School District is located within the boundaries of the Mvskoke Nation Reservation. As of 2017 it boasted an enrollment of 1,026 students, 28.9% of which were Native American, spread across Morris Elementary (Pre-K-5), Morris Middle School (6-8), and Morris High School (9-12). It’s a district in flux, having been rocked by the arrest of longtime Morris High School teacher Dallas Tyler Ewton in July 2021 and the resignation of the Morris High School Principal, who is also Dallas Ewton’s father, Andrew “Buck” or “Bucky” Ewton.
Dallas Ewton was charged in federal district court with Aggravated Sexual Abuse, Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward, and Abusive Sexual Contact of a Minor or a Ward. He is accused of sexually assaulting a female student while on school grounds and during school sponsored activities over a period of 4 years, starting when the student was 11 years old. Teachers interviewed during the FBI investigation admitted to hearing rumors of some sort of relationship between Ewton and the student, with two teachers stating they would not feel comfortable with their daughters taking Ewton’s class and that they would have them take it online instead. One teacher observed Ewton slap a female student on the buttocks then pick her up and carry her as if over a threshold. It is unknown if prior to the FBI interviews the teachers reported any of their concerns to their superiors.
It was in this climate of toxic silence that on April 26, 2021 Natalie Parker walked down a hallway she’d been down countless times before. A proud Mvskoke Nation citizen, Natalie was wearing her hair in two braids in traditional Native style, when Clayton Swem, the In School Detention Monitor whom Parker did not know, stopped her and asked if he could put his hands on her to commit an act of violence.
“Can I pull your hair?” Swem asked again.
“You want to pull my hair?” Parker replied.
“Yes. I’ve never got to pull pigtails like that before.”
Shocked, Parker told him that was his problem and walked away, the echoes of his laughter following her down the hall.
This was not the first time Swem has allegedly acted inappropriately in the presence of students. Another parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, spoke with their children in April 2021 regarding Swem’s conduct as ISD Monitor. Initially their children did not want to talk about anything that might have been said because they were embarrassed. It was eventually disclosed that Swem made it a habit of taking inappropriate personal phone calls from a woman in front of the ISD class. Among the things Swem was purported to have said in front of ISD students: that he was “going to give you the bone when I get home” and other sexually explicit talk including using his tongue and toys on her.
The inappropriate conduct was not confined to phone calls however. Swem reportedly asked female students if he could pull on their hair because his wife wouldn’t let him and commented on how females were dressed by stating he wished his wife would dress like them and give him a sneak peek like they did.
In his capacity as ISD Monitor Swem oversees students from grades 6 to 12, any one of whom could have been exposed to these supposed inappropriate conversations.
The parent spoke with Morris Middle School Principal Heather Adams and informed her of the situation. Adams stated she would take care of it, though there was no mention of this to Superintendent Chris Karch who was at that time ostensibly the Title IX Coordinator.
Shortly thereafter, their children were being assigned to ISD more frequently than before they informed the school of the issue. The students were so uncomfortable with Swem that at the beginning of 2021-22 school year, the parent met with the newly hired Morris High School Principal Kevin Younger and informed him there were previous issues with Swem and that under no circumstances were their children to be sent to ISD. It was at that point ISD disciplinary measures for their children ceased.
Swem has a disturbing history outside of school as well. In 1984 he was arrested and convicted of Indecent Exposure in Pueblo, Colorado for which he served 10 days. While on probation for that charge Swem was charged with Robbery, Attempted First Degree Sexual Assault, Soliciting A Juvenile For Prostitution, Indecent Exposure, Armed Robbery, Third Degree Sexual Assault, and Crime of Violence in Colorado Springs.
Those charges stemmed from encounters on October 18, 1984 in which Swem allegedly fondled a 15 year old student at Mitchell High School. Earlier that day Swem allegedly offered to pay two teens, ages 15 and 16, for sex. According to the girls they ran away when Swem grabbed one of them between her legs.
Swem pled guilty to a single Robbery charge in exchange for the dismissal of the other charges, a plea deal Deputy District Attorney Dennis Lane offered to spare the alleged survivors the “embarrassment” of a trial.
According to testimony reported by The Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph on October 15, 1984 Swem refused to let a teenage passenger out of his car, asking her to have sex with him after showing her a knife that he placed underneath his seat. She was eventually able to escape by convincing Swem that she needed to use the restroom, at which point she ran away. Swem threw her purse, which he’d intentionally kept, after her.
Swem was convicted of the robbery charge on March 11, 1985 and sentenced to 4 years in the medium security Territorial Correctional Facility. He was released before serving the full sentence but had a parole violation in 1986, reentering the CDOC in 1987 to serve the rest of his term.
After the encounter with Swem, Parker immediately called her mother Marissa Lewis. Lewis, who has extensive knowledge of the Title IX civil rights law that prohibits sex based discrimination in schools receiving federal funding which includes incidents of sexual harassment, contacted the then principal, Bucky Ewton, and asked for an investigation into Swem’s alleged sexual harassment. She also requested that her daughter be released from school for the rest of the day as she no longer felt safe at school due to Swem’s conduct.
Despite Lewis’ request and the Title IX requirement that the school district policy for sexual harassment be followed Parker was not sent home nor was the Title IX Coordinator informed. She was instead brought into a meeting with Principal Bucky Ewton and Guidance Counselor Kristy Walker.
According to a recording made by Parker that was reviewed by Mvskoke Media, Principal Ewton asked her to repeat what had occurred. She reiterated the story and made clear the interaction made her uncomfortable. Ewton then advised her that he wanted to bring in Swem to explain what he meant. Parker did not feel as if she had a choice in the matter so she hesitantly agreed.
In the recording you can hear the door open and Ewton is heard addressing Swem, who asks what is going on. Ewton tells him to come into the room without any further details.
“Are you serious? Oh mercy,” Swem states in an agitated manner upon entering the room and seeing Parker, who maintains Swem never sat down nor was he asked to by either of the other administrators in the room.
Ewton explains that Parker had a concern and in order to resolve the issue he was brought in to explain what his meaning was. What follows is a transcript of the conversation.
Ewton: She felt uncomfortable with what was being said so I told her that to resolve this you need to tell her what your meaning was (muffled)
Swem: Sorry. It was just a comment… a comment That’s it. I was just… there was nothing to it. I mean… how embarrassing. This is ridiculous…whatever.
Ewton: Well she didn’t feel comfortable
Swem: Well I’m sorry then if it made you uncomfortable…
Ewton: I mean…
Swem: Lord help me.
Ewton: Mr. Swem tell her what you was doing when you made the comment.
Swem: I was just joking around. I was being whatever. I’m in a good mood. My wife is going to be coming home da da da da da da… I’m fairly cheerful. Can’t help it. My emotions have went up and down a little bit lately.
(to Natalie) I got kids older than you. I got grandkids older than you.
(under his breath) Lord…three more years.
[Swem exits without being excused]
Ewton: I feel and this is my own opinion, I feel he was probably just making comments.
Counselor Walker: (muffled)… Being silly
Parker: I understand that, it’s just that I don’t know him well enough for him to say that to me.
Ewton: And I understand that. I understand why it made you uncomfortable.
Counselor Walker: I don’t know why he would have said… (laugh)
Parker: Either way if it was in context or out of context…
Ewton: (muffled) He was trying to start a…the conversation. He sees kids all day. He doesn’t know them, doesn’t know your name or anything. But you had braids in your hair. There’s not a lot of students that had those okay and he found something to talk about basically.
Parker: I just think he definitely could have done it differently. Like if I like your hair I like your hair not can I pull your hair because that definitely made me feel…
Counselor Walker: odd.
Parker: …uncomfortable coming from an older white male.
Ewton: I understand. Okay and I’m sure it won’t happen again. And if it does (muffled) and I will address it (muffled)
Counselor Walker: Are you okay?
Parker: I’m okay. I just wanted to see if, you know, everything else was okay.
Ewton: Do you feel okay about it now?
Parker: Yeah. I was a little uncomfortable with the way he reacted but…
Ewton: Well, and I’m just going to say this, he was, he didn’t think anything about it and he was I’m sure really defensive because he was…
Counselor Walker: He probably forgot about it as soon as you walk by.
Ewton: He probably felt like he was being in trouble for trying to spark up a conversation. That’s pretty much it.
Counselor Walker: It was just an odd thing to say I totally agree. I would have, I mean if it was like a teacher you saw everyday and you were comfortable, If it was a different kind of relationship. But I understand where you’re coming from. You don’t know him that well. It was just odd and uncomfortable for you so I understand.
Ewton: I don’t think, I don’t think you got to worry about that.
Parker: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Ewton: Like I said If there is, let me know.
Parker: I will. Thank you.
Counselor Walker: See you later.
In instances where an issue of possible sexual harassment has been reported Title IX requires that the school immediately follow their Title IX policy, which should have been readily available on the school or district website along with the Title IX Coordinator contact information. According to federal law, the Title IX Coordinator must be informed so an investigation can begin and supportive measures provided.
At the time of the incident with Parker it appears that Morris School District had no Title IX policy in place. No policy was posted on the Morris School District site nor was there contact information for a Title IX Coordinator provided as is required.
There was a non-discrimination policy in the 2020-21 Student Handbook which states’ “MORRIS SCHOOLS NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY (POLICY NOTIFICATION) It is the policy of the Morris Schools to provide equal opportunities without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, qualified handicap, or veteran in its educational programs and activities. This includes, but not limited to, admissions, educational services, financial aid, and employment. Inquiries concerning application of this policy may be referred to: Counselor, Compliance Coordinator, P.O. Box 80, Morris, Ok. 74445-0080, and (918) 733-4198.”
Per the United States Department of Education Title IX requires schools implement specific and continuing steps to inform students and others of the protections against discrimination on the basis of sex and that the requirement of non-discrimination in educational programs and activities extends to employment and admission. It must clearly state that questions about Title IX may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator, whose name, address, and telephone number must be provided, or to the assistant secretary for civil rights. The notice in the 2020-21 handbook does not appear to be sufficient to meet the Title IX requirements.
The school district attempted to address these requirements and had as of May 13, 2021 posted the contact information of the Title IX Coordinator, Superintendent Dr Chris Karch, and a PowerPoint of the Title IX training he’d received from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association but still no formal policy.
It wasn’t until the June 14, 2021 Morris School Board meeting that the Board and the school district’s attorney discussed in Executive Session a “pending investigation” about a complaint filed by a parent. On the same agenda the board was to discuss and possibly take action to approve board policies of non-discrimination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and the grievance procedure for filing, processing and resolving complaints alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation, all of which are Title IX policies.
As of the September 13, 2021 School Board meeting, the district was still discussing whether or not to approve Title IX non-discrimination policies. What the board did get around to approving were changes to the 21-22 Student Handbook, including a new provision barring students from recording audio or taking photos of both students and staff without permission. Consequences for distribution of unauthorized media include suspension and possible criminal charges.
Morris Superintendent Dr. Chris Karch was contacted for comment but did not respond by press time.
Mvskoke Media works to elevate community voices. If you or someone you know has a news tip, contact Mvskoke Media at: email@example.com or 918-732-7762.
Thank you for having the courage to publish this information. The harassment and sexual harassment has been on going for many years at Morris. I believe that your investigative journalism will force Morris school officials to finally take this serious and enforce the laws that address these issues. My two daughters graduated from Morris in early 2000’s. It should not take this long to stop an ongoing problem administration knows about. We need investigative journalism! Again thank you.
Seems like it’s past time for the State Department of Education to investigate.
We also have a teacher who watches porn in class.
Yes. I believe this to be true. My kids told me about this on Tuesday. When an incident that day sparked the conversation with me after school that day. They said that several different times this male teacher has opened his phone during class when they are busy working on an assignment or test and randomly they will hear sexual moaning coming from his phone before he hurries to turn the sound off. Now I’m trying to get the school to call me back because that same teacher gave my son a zero on his test on Tuesday because he was bold enough to ask during class immediately after the lastest incident, “What are you watching?!” To which the teacher said my son had to bring his test up & get a zero because he interrupted the test. This is absolutely not acceptable!
Wow! Thank you for exposing this type of behavior at Morris. Definitely need to look into the comment about the Teacher that watches porn during class now.
Can I just say HOLY CRAP?! Morris used to be a place where parents would fight for their children to go. A place that produced smart successful adults. HOW in the world was this teacher hired? Based off of his background, I wouldn’t want him anywhere around my child. You don’t just make a comment like that to a student. I sincerely hope that this article wakes up the people of Morris. This enrages me. Talk to your children. Talk to your students. At the ABSOLUTE VERY LEAST, they should feel safe at school. This is unacceptable.
This is outrageous! Thank you for publishing! These men and women that turned a blind eye should be pressured for allowing this abuse! These are children! And that counselor’s comments in the transcript are horrible! Is she really a counselor or an abuse enabler!? Disgusting!
Excellent reporting! Thank you for the Title IX information! I wish I’d known when my kids were in school.
Lengthy read, but so glad I went through it. This type of activity AND the obvious coverup by the administrators should need to be exposed to the max, and prosecuted. I’m so glad you’ve gotten this in print so we all can be aware of what’s really going on. We can’t count on our kids to tell us, for fear of not being believed, or being punished.
Inappropriate behavior by Morris teachers is not a new situation. It has been going on for years. The first I knew of it was in the 80’s. It is normal practice for the administrations to sweep it under the rug and ignore it. I had 3 children go through the Morris school system. I wish I had never let them step foot in those schools.
Sad day for our youth. Any parent with children there need to speak up and become a group that’s going to make sure this is stopped. Go as high as you have to if it’s not handled at the school. There is strength in numbers.
I know for a fact he had talked that way in his ISD classes my daughter (who was in 7th grade) who had him said he’s said all kind of things one being that I’m guessing he was on the phone to his wife? But a woman saying they need to move the bed away from the wall. Morris used to be the best around but if your not in the click you just get the run around and things swept under the rug. A small town should not have 2 different sexual activity things going on within 1 year. I’m sooo thankful for this article to show how they really are up there. I hope everyone who turned their head and even laughed at this girl who had a major problem with a teacher should NEVER BE LAUGHED AT or just got the run around
I would like to know if this would have been handled if the girl had been white.
Well it took a year for a native student…. race is irrelevant
How many years have Morris schools received Title IX funding and yet from the top down they fail to implement the basic requirements associated with the funding?
Since the district does not seem to be in any hurry to solidify and clarify Title IX changes, all complaints should be made directly to the executive director of federal programs for the state department of education. That email is Gloria.Bayouth@sde.ok.gov
Great reporting. Please keep pushing for the schools within our reservation (and elsewhere) have Title IX Policies in place. Just another step in the protection of our Tribal Youth Citizens. We are not a Tribe to be dealt with inappropriately any longer. Thankful for my Niece and Greatniece to continue fighting for their right of protection from such abusive individuals. MVTO