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Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux school sued in bullying incident

The following story was written and reported by Christina Rose, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Little Wound School at Kyle.

Tiny DeCory, founder of the program, says that bullied students can go from victims to role models in their communities.

Bullying at Little Wound School
Lawsuit filed by Vocu family
By Christina Rose
Native Sun News Staff Writer

KYLE - A bullying incident at the Little Wound School has opened up questions that every parent considers. How safe is my child at school? What are a school’s obligations in keeping my child safe?

Before a Civil Action was filed on behalf of the daughter of the Dale Vocu family, the Vocu parents said they tried everything to get the school to pay attention to the harassment and assault their daughter suffered within the classroom and the hallways at school. The parents consulted the policies and the handbooks and followed the outlined protocol. Yet they stated that no matter what they did, the High School Principal, Dr. Perry Hanson, refused to guarantee any student’s safety in the school.

Since then, Charles Abourezk, attorney for the Little Wound School, said he has filed a motion to dismiss the case, adding, “We feel this is all without merit.”

According to Mitch Wisecarver, lay advocate for the family, the school did not have a bullying policy and the handbook simply defines bullying. Wiecarver said there were steps the parents had to follow, which he said they did. The school told Wisecarver they too had taken action, but over six months, nothing changed.

Wisecarver said the teachers turned their backs and allowed the bullying to continue from September until the Vocus’ removed their child from school in late February. Wisecarver also said that there were multiple students involved in the bullying, and that since this student has come forward, at least six other families have complained about the school as well.

“It is really sad that we have to file in court before the superintendent will step up to do something,” Wisecarver said. “The school is failing the children and the family. The school board isn’t taking action, the superintendent isn’t taking any action, the dean isn’t taking any action and the security isn’t taking any action. That’s why we filed the lawsuit. That’s why we had to do this.”

Wisecarver feels these actions will finally wake up the school and the parents to the turmoil the Vocu family has been through and added that the Vocu family is taking action for the safety of all children, not just their own. He said, “The parents want to know the children are safe in their school environment. We understand that the occasional fight breaks out, but to not even try to address this ongoing situation is a concern.”

Some schools have taken firm action against bullying. Red Cloud Indian School was said by Wisecarver to have instituted a No Tolerance Policy against bullying, although that was not confirmed by the school. Dayna Brave Eagle, Oglala Sioux Tribe Tribal Education director, said the Wounded Knee School in Manderson recently presented a new policy with consequences that Brave Eagle thinks will be very effective. Brave Eagle added that she has been meeting with the administration from all of the schools including those in the border towns to talk about the problem.

Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, founder of the BEAR Program commented on the situation. “We hear time and time again that the administrations are not doing enough. Administrators are in denial and they don’t realize that a written policy with consequences will help them.” DeCory said that if a school does not have a policy, it is a weakness. “Your policy doesn’t have to be lengthy. Bullying is bullying, teasing, and pushing. A policy gives the parents the feeling the school is doing something.”

DeCory added that without a policy, bullying can get way out of hand. “Teachers see kids running around outside and they think kids are playing, but sometimes the child running is being bullied. Bullies don’t bully individually. They need an audience. It’s part of bully empowerment. It isn’t just teasing, not when children are hurt, forced to leave school or even taking their life.”

OST Tribal Education Director Brave Eagle summed the situation up by saying, “We all want our children to be safe. Even the people in Newtown, CT, thought their children were safe. Things happen.”

Reflecting on the complexity of the problem, Brave Eagle said, “Teachers try their best and are doing what they can, but parents forget that they are teachers, not social workers. Schools are educational institutions but they are facing social situations they can’t control.”

Brave Eagle said that alcohol and drug abuse has evolved, which has had an impact on school violence. “In the 1970s, students were smoking marijuana, and now our kids are doing meth. How did our kids go from drinking in high school to drinking in elementary school? The challenges the kids are facing are just unbelievable. This is not just our issue; this has become a national issue.”

According to Brave Eagle, the most important thing a family can do to protect their children is to become involved in their education. She fears that if parents don’t take responsibility for their children’s actions with consequences, violence will only continue to escalate. “We have been functioning within a dysfunctional society, and we have become dysfunctional. We have to become responsible, for our kids, our community and for the world. This isn’t just happening here.”

(Contact Christina Rose at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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