Regarding School Reopenings

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 14, 2020
CONTACT:
NCAI and NIEA Statement on BIE School Reopenings
WASHINGTON, D.C. | The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) express deep concern regarding reopening plans for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and the safety and health of all students, teachers, administrators, and community members.
On August 6, 2020, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released a ‘Dear Tribal Leader Letter’ expressing its intent to reopen BIE schools “to the maximum extent possible.” NCAI and NIEA strongly urge DOI to consult meaningfully with tribal nations before reopening BIE schools. DOI must ensure it addresses tribal needs and concerns, such as guaranteeing remote education options, securing reliable personal protective equipment vendors, considering teacher willingness to return to in-person instruction, student transportation needs, and other critical issues.
NCAI and NIEA firmly believe that schools should only reopen for in-classroom instruction if it can be done safely. Moreover, such decisions should only be made after meaningful consultation with, and input from, the local tribal community and its tribal administration. Given the risks to the safety and welfare of Native students and their families, great deference should be given to the local tribal communities’ opinions concerning reopening classrooms. We also believe that BIE must be transparent with its reopening plan and give specific examples of measures it will take to ensure the safety and well-being of Native students and their families. In addition to in-person instruction, there must be an online instruction option, such that education continues seamlessly, especially for students receiving special education services.
NCAI and NIEA are eager to see plans in the form of the BIE “Toolkit” outlined in the August 6 letter. The swift dissemination of this information will demonstrate transparency and aid Indian Country and our Native families to understand the protocols and precautions BIE is taking to ensure a safe educational environment for our most sacred beings – our children.
For more information, please contact the following:
Kevin Allis, NCAI Chief Executive Officer, kallis@ncai.org
Diana Cournoyer, NIEA Executive Director, dcournoyer@niea.org
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About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
About the National Indian Education Association:
NIEA is the nation’s most inclusive advocacy organization advancing comprehensive culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on education, NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles – to convene educators to explore ways to improve schools and the educational systems serving Native children; to promote the maintenance and continued development of language and cultural programs; and to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and decision makers. For more information, visit www.niea.org.

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