August 6, 2008

Report: 3 Schools Lack Precautions

By Polly Summar Journal Staff Writer

A recent report by the U.S. Department of the Interior has raised concerns about safety precautions at some American Indian schools in New Mexico.

In a report released last Friday, the department reviewed the safety at nine "non-statistically selected" Bureau of Indian Educationoperated schools across the nation, and three of those were in New Mexico -- the Te Tsu Geh Oweenge Day School in Tesuque, the San Ildefonso Day School at San Ildefonso Pueblo and the Ojo Encino Day School in Cuba.

The report showed that none of the three New Mexico schools had security cameras, metal detectors, security guards or hall monitors. They were the only three of the nine schools not to have dress codes, which the report states "reduced violence and gang activity in benchmarked mainstream education facilities."

Te Tsu Geh Oweenge Day School has only some 20 stu- dents, and San Ildefonso Day School has 28 students; both are kindergarten through sixth-grade schools. Ojo Encino Day School, with some 220 students, is kindergarten through eighth grade.

The department said it searched public school system requirements and compiled a number of mainstream safety measures, based on Virginia, New York and Texas requirements. According to the report, during the 2005/2006 school year, 78 percent of public schools nationwide experienced one or more violent incidents of crime, including rape, sexual battery and physical attacks.

In a 2000 report regarding BIE-operated schools, 37 percent of students reported carrying a gun to school during the previous months.

At the Tesuque and San Ildefonso schools, visitors were not required to sign in or show identification. At the Cuba and Tesuque schools, visitors were not required to wear a visitor's badge.

The report states, "At more than half of the educational facilities visited, we walked around campuses unchallenged by staff and/or entered classroom buildings through unsecured doors ... None of the schools had adequate emergency preparedness plans to deal with violent incidents like bomb threats, shootings, fights and hostage situations. Plans did not adequately address emergency and/ or all-clear procedures, evacuation meeting locations, staff responsibilities or how to validate that all students and staff were safe."

At San Ildefonso Day School, "neither interior nor exterior door handles could be locked from the inside." Staff members needed to go outside to lock doors with keys, exposing them, and students, to potential dangers, the report states.

At the Tesuque school, the report states that after asking for an evacuation drill, "the responsible official stated that drills were not conducted because the children would be scared."

Kevin Skenandore, director of the BIE office in Albuquerque, said through a department spokesperson that he had just received the report and had not had time to completely review it yet.

The schools included in the study were: John F. Kennedy Day School, grades K-8, of White River, Ariz.; Tohono O'odham High School, grades nine-12, of Sells, Ariz.; Santa Rosa Boarding School, grades K-eight, of Sells, Ariz.; Pine Ridge School, grades K-12, of Pine Ridge, S.D.; Chemawa Indian School, grades nine-12, of Salem, Ore.; and Blackfeet Dormitory, grades one-12, of Browning, Mont.

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