Education Department investigating alleged discrimination of Native American students in Montana

January 7, 2019 | The Washington Post

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate allegations that a public school system in Montana discriminated against Native American students, according to a letter sent by the department to attorneys representing the students.

The students, from the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, filed a complaint with the federal government in June 2017 alleging the Wolf Point School District “deprives them of basic rights to which they are entitled in school.” The discrimination included dozens of instances of bullying, racial slurs and disproportionate discipline of students who are not white, according to the complaint.

In its December 28 letter, the department said it would investigate issues raised in the complaint, including charges that Native American students were subject to more severe discipline than white students, that Native American students were not properly evaluated for special education services and that the school system failed to respond to complaints of racial harassment.

Melina Healey, an attorney for the tribes, said in an interview she was optimistic about the department’s decision to investigate “persistent discrimination and mistreatment” of Native American students in Wolf Point schools.

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