By Vi Waln
LCT Columnist “Youths are passed through schools that don’t teach, then forced to search for jobs that don’t exist, and finally left stranded in the street to stare at the glamorous lives advertised all around them.” -- Huey P. Newton It is back to school week for many students. Our children are returning to their classrooms to continue their elementary, middle and high school journey. Many college students are already back in their dorms gearing up for the fall semester. It is difficult for many to complete their education. There are a variety of factors which influence our ability to stay in school. Our students attending K-12 schools might have the hardest time staying in school. Bullying is at an all-time high. Many of us experience the bully in person, while others will be emotionally or mentally terrorized online by people hiding behind a computer screen. There are many students right now who are not looking forward to going back to school because they are afraid of being picked on by a bully. There are many students at the K-12 level on Rosebud who are not in school at all. They refuse to attend classes because of how they are treated by their peers, faculty, staff, administrators or school board members. I don’t blame them one bit. Oftentimes, parents will go to the school and meet with an administrator in order to resolve the bullying. But the most common answers given by administrators or other school staff is that they “didn’t know there was a problem” or “your child never said anything.” I don’t believe these reasons can be used as excuses by the adults anymore. We all know bullying is a big issue here on the Rez. If the schools need to hire more staff to combat the bullying incidents, then they should hire more staff. We encourage our students to stay in school. We continually harp on them about the importance of an education, yet we are not willing to provide the necessary support for them to be truly safe in school. School administrators and staff are paid good money to help our children be safe and learn. Again, not knowing there are problems with bullying in school is no longer a valid excuse. There are many parents and grandparents who want to see a virtual school established on the Rosebud Reservation. Oglala Lakota County has a virtual school that operates out of Batesland, SD. I don’t see why our tribal government can’t do the same for our students on the Rosebud. We might actually see the drop-out rate go down if this option was offered to parents and students here. We currently have students at the sixth grade level and up who are not attending school because of the bully problem. And parents have every right to keep their child home, especially if they are concerned about their safety. Bullying on the reservation has led to suicide. None of us want to see any more of our young people take their own lives. We would rather keep them home than subject them to the bullying that is rampant in the schools. None of us have the right to accuse parents of not helping their children stay in school when we all know school is often a dangerous place. I believe many parents would chose safety over education. We all want our children to grow up in a safe environment. It’s a fact that none of our schools on the Rez are providing a safe environment. So, instead of prosecuting parents for failing to send their children to school, many of us are looking to tribal government to provide an alternative to the existing educational system on Rosebud. I have heard a ton of talk about education reform from the candidates running for tribal office. Many of us would like to see education reform happen through a virtual school which will provide online lessons for students in grades K-12. I’ve also heard talk from politicians about how we need to take back oversight of our education systems. Now is a good time to turn those words into real action. I challenge all the people who get elected to office to put their rhetoric about education reform into action by establishing a virtual school for our tribal students. There are many families who now have computers or tablets with high speed internet access in their homes. I am sure they would welcome the opportunity to offer their children the choice to complete their education through an online program. It isn’t doing our children any good for the adults and elected officials to keep supporting the same educational systems that are not working for us. Steps leading to real change need to take place now. A virtual K-12 school for students living within the exterior boundaries of the Rosebud Reservation is one viable option which tribal government needs to consider. Our children are our future. A bright future comes with educated people. Our newly elected members of tribal government will serve the people well by establishing a virtual school as an alternative to the failing educational systems Rosebud has in place now. Find the award-winning Lakota Country Times on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter.
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