Tony Dearman serves as the director of the Bureau of Indian Education. Photo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Bureau of Indian Education faces questions about safety and security

Are Bureau of Indian Education schools safe and secure? That's a question being posed on Capitol Hill this week.

Tony Dearman, the director of the BIE, will be discussing the issue with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday afternoon. His testimony comes after internal reports have shown problems with the agency's efforts to protect the 48,000 Indian students who attend BIE schools.

According to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior, the BIE, which is part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has failed to ensure that all employees, contractors, and volunteers who come in contact with Indian children have completed background checks.

"These issues leave children vulnerable to contact with persons who would be determined unfit if background checks were completed before hiring and then reinvestigated every 5 years as required," a report made public in February stated.

A 2016 report also found lapses in BIE school safety. Of the 16 schools visited, only four had emergency plans to cover incidents like bomb threats, shootings and hostage situations. Only seven offered violence prevention training, the OIG said.

The hearing takes place immediately following a business meeting at 2:30pm Eastern. The full witness list follows:
Mr. Tony Dearman, Director, Bureau of Indian Education, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC

Ms. Cecelia Fire Thunder, President, Oglala Lakota Nation Education Coalition, Pine Ridge, SD

Mr. Gary Lujan, Director of Trust Land and Security, Santa Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, NM

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "Protecting the Next Generation: Safety and Security at Bureau of Indian Education Schools" (May 16, 2018)

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