U.S. Department of Education Launches First-Ever School Environment Listening Tour for Native American Students

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The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights are launching their first-ever school environment listening tour to hear from schools and communities on ways to better meet the unique educational and culturally-related academic needs of Native American students.

The listening sessions will focus on school environment – bullying, student discipline and offensive imagery and symbolism. WHIAIANE will gather feedback during the tour and consider how it can inform future action to ensure Native American students receive a high quality education.

The first stop on the tour is Friday, Oct. 10, in Franklin, Wisconsin, at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee, followed by another session on Sunday, Oct. 26, in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Additional listening sessions will be held in coming weeks in Seattle, Washington; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Troy, New York; Los Angeles, California; and Anchorage, Alaska.

“We hope that these sessions will serve as a meaningful resource to the Native community as my office and the Administration work to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native students have equitable educational opportunities in healthy learning environments,” said William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. “Indian students have unique education challenges as they strive to preserve their native cultures and languages, while ensuring that they are college and career ready.”

In his June 13, 2014 visit to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, President Obama affirmed the Administration’s commitment to strengthen Native American communities through education and economic development. His initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper,” ensures that schools can provide the social, emotional, and behavioral supports for all youth—including boys and young men of color—that will enable all students to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

WHIAIANE and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) are committed to supporting school districts, states, tribes and other organizations as they seek to better serve Native American students and ensure that all students have equal opportunities and resources in order to learn and succeed in school, careers and in life. OCR recently released guidance to educators on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that all students have equitable access to the resources that they deserve – and that are their right – such as academic and extracurricular programs, strong teaching, facilities, and instructional materials. Administration officials and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have engaged directly with tribal officials on a range of educational issues important to Indian Country.

Additional information about specific locations and dates for future listening sessions will be announced in the coming weeks. Upcoming event information can be found at www.edtribalconsultations.org.