HARDIN – A Big Horn County jury convicted Nora Bettina Block, 42, of felony tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and misdemeanor obstructing a peace officer, according to Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris.
Block was an art teacher at the Hardin High School who in late January 2018 was presented with a handgun in her classroom by a student and failed to notify authorities until the following day, and initially gave false statements to law enforcement as to the circumstances of the handgun’s discovery.
Witnesses included the Big Horn County Undersheriff, Sheriff’s Deputies, school administrators, another teacher, high school students, and Block.
Harris said the jury deliberated for more than seven hours before reaching verdicts on two of the three alleged counts. The jury hung on the charge of possession of a weapon in a school building, which the State subsequently moved to dismiss.
Block faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a $50,500 fine.
(FEBRUARY 27, 2018) The former student and former teacher allegedly involved with a gun found at the Hardin High School in late January appeared in Big Horn County District Court on Tuesday.
Uttekaat Isaiah Jade Birdinground, 17, pleaded not guilty to three charges, including attempted robbery, carried concealed weapon, and possession of a weapon inside a school building.
District Judge Blair Jones, who recognized the release order provided by Judge Mary Jane Knisely, allowed his release through a $50,000 posted bond. Birdinground was ordered to receive GPS monitoring, remain 1,500 feet from all Hardin schools, be subject to a 9 p.m. curfew and remain off social media.
“I need not advise anyone of the concerns surrounding someone bringing a gun to school given recent events,” said Jones. “These kind of issues have been highlighted lately and not in a good way.”
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen in our community,” the judge continued. “I’m warning you…I can’t tell you how important this to the court and this community.”
Following Birdinground’s arraignment, the former art teacher who allegedly hid the weapon for Birdinground made her appearance.
Nora Bettina Block, 42, pleaded not guilty to tampering with evidence, possession of weapon on school grounds, and obstructing a peace officer.
Block posted a $25,000 bond. Among the restrictions set by Judge Jones, Block is prohibited from having contact with anyone associated with the school pending the criminal investigation.
According to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, a student resource officer received information that a student at the high school had a gun inside the building on Friday, Jan. 26.
Birdinground was found in Block’s art room despite not having any classes there, according to the charging documents. When questioned about the gun, Birdinground said he had been “messing around” and the gun was just a black hairdryer that was found hidden behind the chalkboard.
Block admitted to administration she had lied about the incident, and that she found the gun and put it in her desk overnight.
Block then told the principal she went into work on Saturday, removed the gun from her desk and placed it under a student’s desk before calling school officials to say she had found a gun.
Birdinground was later expelled and Block was fired.