Source: In These Times
Teachers and coaches in the Wolf Point, Mont., schools have called Native students “dirty Indians” and “rez kids,” performed “war whoops,” told a concerned Native parent “fuck your daughter,” and informed the mother of a special-needs five-year-old that he has to change his behavior if he wants his non-Native classmates to stop biting, hitting and sexually touching him.
A Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Nations’ discrimination complaint claims all this and more is par for the course for tribal children in the Wolf Point School District. On June 28, the tribes submitted the complaint to the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in federally funded programs, including local school systems. Attorney Melina Healey, a fellow with the advocacy group Equal Justice Works, is representing the tribes, along with additional attorneys. The ACLU of Montana signed on in support of the complaint.
“We are at a do-or-die moment for our tribe’s children,” says Roxanne Gourneau, a Fort Peck tribal executive board member. “I don’t want any more of our youngsters to end up in the cemetery or prison.”
The complaint asks the federal government to help bring the Wolf Point School District into compliance with federal law; it is not a lawsuit and does not request compensation. It does provide the federal agencies with many personal narratives and much data to support its allegations that Native kids are subjected to staff and student bullying, and are excessively disciplined, receiving a disproportionately high rate of suspensions and expulsions. The complaint maintains that Native students are discouraged from taking advanced academic courses for which teachers control enrollment; instead, they are more likely to be warehoused in an underfunded alternative school.