[Senate Hearing 111-661]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 111-661
DOES INDIAN SCHOOL SAFETY GET A PASSING GRADE?
COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
MAY 13, 2010
Printed for the use of the Committee on Indian Affairs
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
61-712 WASHINGTON : 2011
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
http://bookstore.gpo.gov. For more information, contact the GPO Customer Contact Center, U.S. Government Printing Office. Phone 202�09512�091800, or 866�09512�091800 (toll-free). E-mail, [email protected]
COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota, Chairman
JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming, Vice Chairman
DANIEL K. INOUYE, Hawaii JOHN McCAIN, Arizona
KENT CONRAD, North Dakota LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii TOM COBURN, M.D., Oklahoma
TIM JOHNSON, South Dakota MIKE CRAPO, Idaho
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington MIKE JOHANNS, Nebraska
JON TESTER, Montana
TOM UDALL, New Mexico
AL FRANKEN, Minnesota
Allison C. Binney, Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel
David A. Mullon Jr., Minority Staff Director and Chief Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held on May 13, 2010..................................... 1
Statement of Senator Barrasso.................................... 2
Statement of Senator Dorgan...................................... 1
Statement of Senator Franken..................................... 3
Statement of Senator Johnson..................................... 21
Statement of Senator Tester...................................... 4
Statement of Senator Udall....................................... 4
Prepared statement........................................... 5
Echo Hawk, Hon. Larry J., Assistant Secretary, Indian affairs,
U.S. Department of the Interior, accompanied by Bart Stevens,
Acting Director, Bureau of Indian Education, and Jack Rever,
Director, Office of Facilities, Environmental and Cultural
Prepared statement........................................... 9
Fairbanks, Dr. Anthony, Superintendent, Pueblo of Laguna
Department of Education........................................ 34
Prepared statement with attachments.......................... 36
Kendall, Mary L., Acting Inspector General, U.S. Department of
the Interior................................................... 13
Prepared statement........................................... 14
Roman Nose, Quinton, Treasurer, National Indian Education
Prepared statement........................................... 30
BlueEyes, Faye, Program Director, Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Community
Grant School, Navajo Nation, prepared statement with attachment 75
Jaynes, Charles L., Former Chief of Safety and Risk Management,
Bureau of Indian Affairs, prepared statement................... 78
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, prepared statement.................... 81
DOES INDIAN SCHOOL SAFETY GET A PASSING GRADE?
THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2010
Committee on Indian Affairs,
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m. in room
628, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Byron L. Dorgan,
Chairman of the Committee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BYRON L. DORGAN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM NORTH DAKOTA
The Chairman. I am going to call the hearing to order. I
will be joined by my colleagues shortly, but in the interest of
starting to begin, today we are going to examine a basic and
important question of whether Indian children are safe when
they attend schools that are operated by our Federal
We operate 184 schools throughout the Interior Department's
Bureau of Indian Education. These are 184 schools throughout
Indian Country, and the agency is responsible for the safety of
44,000 children, thousands of teachers and staff who in many
cases work at and live at these schools.
The schools are owned and operated by the United States and
we have an obligation, of course, to ensure that students and
faculty have a safe place to learn, to teach and to live, in
some cases. We have had reports previous to this of disrepair
and circumstances that show that BIA schools are some of the
schools in our Country that are in most desperate need of new
investment and new safety regulations.
So today we are continuing this discussion. It is the case,
I think, in the past it has been and still is in many respects
a circumstance where we are failing to meet our obligations. A
number of schools suffer serious structural problems and lack
policies and plans to ensure the protection of students,
faculty and staff.
From what we know, it appears that safety inspections are
not consistently performed. Maintenance and repairs that
directly relate to safety are not always prioritized. We have
held numerous hearings on this, and the Inspector General has
issued numerous reports describing these problems.
A recent investigative report by a news organization in
Albuquerque, New Mexico highlights some of the problems there.
They found that several schools in New Mexico had fire alarms
that failed to work. In one instance, the school silenced the
fire alarm because it malfunctioned too often. In another
school, the fire alarms do not work and are so old you could no
longer get parts to fix them. Only 3 of 36 schools in a 2009
report had safety inspections performed, although they were
supposed to be annual inspections.
The response from the BIA back then was that they just
don't have the money to replace fire alarms. Inadequate funding
for school improvements, repairs and construction is just a
chronic and an ongoing issue. We all agree on that. The
question is what is it going to take to fix it. When I hear
that we don't even have capabilities to fix fire alarms at
schools, I worry about it.
Although we all agree that more funding is needed, the
Administration in its budget request failed to request an
increase in funding for fiscal year 2011. In fact, they asked
for a $9 million cut in education construction funding. I have
requested that the funding for school construction be restored
to the 2003 level and that would be an increase above the
President's current request.
Funding is always going to continue to be a problem, I
understand, but my real concern is that proper policies and
procedures need to be in place to identify and quickly correct
safety issues at the Department schools. There needs to be a
process for identifying and then prioritizing maintenance and
repair projects that directly relate to safety.
Department safety officers have identified over 85,000
safety deficiencies at the schools. However, only 25,000 have
been corrected. So more than two-thirds of safety deficiencies
that have been identified remain unaddressed and I think in
many cases dangerous.
The 2007 Inspector General's report said ``these
deficiencies have the potential to seriously injure or kill
students and faculty and require immediate attention to
mitigate the problems.'' Yet, schools on one of my reservations
in the State of North Dakota continue to have fire alarms that
fail to work, sprinkler systems needing to be replaced, and no
emergency evacuation plans.
I think there needs to be a clear path from the Department
on how we are going to address these issues, what the cost is,
and what kind of plan we develop going forward. We just can't
allow tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff to
remain in conditions that I think can be and in many cases are
I thank the witnesses that have volunteered to come today.
We will, I would say before I call on the witnesses, place
their full written statements for all of them in the record. We
will ask them to summarize. We will also leave the record open
for two weeks following the hearing for additional submissions.
Let me call on my colleagues for any opening statements.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN BARRASSO,
U.S. SENATOR FROM WYOMING
Senator Barrasso. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I
appreciate your holding this hearing today and I want to
welcome each of our witnesses for being here.
Mr. Chairman, as you said, having a safe environment to
study and to learn is essential. It is essential to children's
academic achievement. The report in recent years from the
Inspector General and from tribal leaders indicates that many
Indian schools are not providing a safe environment.
The report describes, and I won't go into each of the
specific details, Mr. Chairman, because you have clearly done
that in a very effective way, but what we all see is an
environment that is unacceptable, including major and minor
construction deficiencies, missing emergency preparedness
plans, school violence indicators, and failure to perform
background checks on employees.
So in today's hearing, Mr. Chairman, I hope we will hear
about progress, progress that the Department of the Interior
has made to meet the recommendations of the Inspector General.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF HON. AL FRANKEN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM MINNESOTA
Senator Franken. Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this
hearing on this important issue of safety in Indian schools. I
have talked about the deteriorating condition of Indian schools
time and time again in this Committee. The condition of BIA's
schools is an unconscionable threat to the health and well
being of children in Indian Country.
The budget for Indian school construction has been
consistently cut since 2004, and this year is unfortunately no
exception. The President's budget cuts school construction by
$9 million even after accounting for internal transfers between
I have worked with Chairman Dorgan and several of my
colleagues on this Committee to call for a return to the level
of $293 million that we appropriated for Indian school
construction back in 2003. That will allow us to finally get to
schools like the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School at Leech Lake
Reservation. The condition of these schools is an injustice.
There is just no other way to put it. We have to do something
In addressing school safety in Indian Country, we must also
address school violence, an issue that rings close to home in
Minnesota. On March 21 of this year, Minnesota and the Nation
commemorated the five-year anniversary of the Red Lake
Massacre. On that tragic day, a 16 year old student on Red Lake
Reservation shot and killed his grandfather, his grandfather's
girlfriend and others at Red Lake High School before taking his
In the wake of the massacre, the Red Lake community decided
that they would not be defined by the tragedy. Instead, they
chose to be defined by their ability to overcome it. Over the
past few years, the Red Lake community has worked tirelessly to
improve the safety and well being of its students. As part of
this effort, the Red Lake School District has instituted
reforms to reduce school violence. The district has, for
example, implemented behavioral management and anti-bullying
programs in the schools. As a result, school discipline
problems in the district have decreased dramatically.
School safety challenges, however, are not confined to the
boundaries of Red Lake. As a recent report by the Department of
Interior Inspector General's Office shows, schools across
Indian Country are ill-equipped to protect their students from
internal and external threats of violence. For example, the
Inspector General's Office found that many BIE schools failed
to provide their staff with adequate training on preventing
violence and responding to emergencies. This is very
The Red Lake community has shown us what we can do to
address the challenge. It is time that we provide schools
across Indian Country with the support that they need to adopt
the types of reforms that the Red Lake community has
I agree with my colleague, Senator Udall, that we have a
national emergency on our hands. We must act before it is too
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Senator Tester?
STATEMENT OF HON. JON TESTER,
U.S. SENATOR FROM MONTANA
Senator Tester. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to echo the comments by the previous Senators about
my appreciation for you holding this meeting. I want to thank
the panelists for being here today.
Outside of the obvious problem of unsafe schools, and
personal bodily injury, we all know for a fact that poverty
runs high in Indian Country. We all know for a fact that, at
least in Montana and I am not so sure it isn't this way around
the Country, if you want to know where the at-risk population
is, it is our Native Americans.
If you don't have safety in schools, there is no way you
are going to know how to read or write; no way you are going to
have the opportunity to learn; no way you are going to be able
to really focus and develop the kind of skills it is going to
take to develop an economy that right now in Montana and many
reservations is about 70 percent to 80 percent unemployment.
The bottom line is, all this stuff joins together. All this
stuff dovetails with one another. And this is a problem that is
so obvious that if we can't fix this, there is no way we can
give folks hope that need hope more than anybody else.
So with that, I do appreciate the panel being here. I
appreciate the Chairman stepping up to the plate once again and
holding a hearing on a topic that is very, very important.
The Chairman. Senator Tester, thank you very much.
We are joined by the Honorable Larry Echo Hawk.
Senator Udall, how are you? Senator Udall, do you have an
Senator Udall. Yes, I think so. Did Senator Tester provide
The Chairman. Senator Tester has already delivered an
opening statement, to a standing ovation.
Senator Udall. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF HON. TOM UDALL,
U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW MEXICO
Chairman Dorgan, I want to thank you for holding this
hearing. It is a very important hearing both for the Country
and native students, and it is also important to New Mexico
because we have recently had some incidents that have
highlighted the problem in our schools.
I would like to welcome all of our witnesses, especially my
good friend, Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk and the Laguna
School Superintendent, Dr. Fairbanks. I am pleased today to
welcome Dr. Fairbanks to witness before the Committee on the
important issue of BIA safety, and specifically on his
experience in the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico.
As Superintendent with the Pueblo of Laguna Department of
Education since 2007, Dr. Fairbanks has direct experience
struggling to make it through the long line of maintenance and
construction backlogs while the Pueblo's elementary school
continues to sink deeper into despair.
Dr. Fairbanks has been an advocate of education for over 28
years across the Country. He previously served as the Assistant
Professor for New Mexico State University, as the Native
American Development Specialist for the University of
Wisconsin, and as an elementary school Principal and a pre-12
Dean of Students, and as a middle school and high school
Dr. Fairbanks has a master's degree in education, a
doctorate in educational policy and administration, and is a
Ojibwe of Red Lake and White Earth Indian Reservations in
Minnesota. And we welcome him as a representative of the Pueblo
of Laguna and the many other tribes in New Mexico that want to
educate their students in good, safe schools.
So I am going to put the rest of my statement, Chairman
Dorgan, in the record, but as you all know, I have been calling
for a Marshall Plan to eliminate the backlog in construction
and maintenance of BIA facilities, and at the same time, the
taxpayers and native communities deserve assurance that these
monies will be spent accountably and that they would be spent
in a cost-effective way.
So with that, thank you very much. I am very much looking
forward to the witnesses today.
[The prepared statement of Senator Udall follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Tom Udall, U.S. Senator from New Mexico
I want to thank Chairman Dorgan for holding this hearing to examine
school safety in tribal schools, and what must be done to keep our
Native schoolchildren and staff safe and secure in these facilities.
I would like to welcome all of our witnesses this morning,
including my good friend, Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, and
Laguna School District superintendent, Dr. Fairbanks.
I am pleased today to welcome Dr. Anthony R. Fairbanks to witness
before the Committee on the important issue of BIA school safety, and
specifically on his experience in the Pueblo of Laguna in my state of
New Mexico. As Superintendent with the Pueblo of Laguna Department of
Education since 2007, Dr. Fairbanks has direct experience struggling to
make it through the long line of maintenance and construction backlogs,
while the Pueblo's elementary school continued to sink deeper into
Dr. Fairbanks has been an advocate of education for over 28 years
across the country. He previously served as an Assistant Professor for
New Mexico State University, as the Native American Development
Specialist for the University of Wisconsin, as an elementary school
principal, as Pre-K-12 Dean of Students, and as a middle and high
school football coach.
Dr. Fairbanks has a Master's Degree in Education, and a Doctorate
in Educational Policy and Administration.
Dr. Fairbanks is Ojibwe from the Red Lake and White Earth Indian
reservations in Minnesota, and today we welcome him as a representative
of the Pueblo of Laguna and the many other tribes in New Mexico that to
educate their children in good safe schools.
I hope some of the witnesses will describe their experiences
working to improve school facilities and safety, and I'm eager to hear
their recommendations for how to do better--for we must do much better.
Some of you may know that I have been calling for a ``Marshall
Plan'' to eliminate the backlog in construction and maintenance of BIA
facilities. At the same time, the taxpayers and Native communities
deserve assurance and accountability that monies appropriated for these
purposes are spent in the most cost-effective manner.
I am aware that there currently exists a backlog of about $1.3
billion to repair or replace 64 schools in poor condition--facilities
that have serious structural deficiencies, are not handicapped
accessible, and are in violation of building and fire codes. That's 35
percent of all tribal schools, and 16 of those 64 tribal schools are in
my state of New Mexico, including Laguna Elementary School.
Last month, I joined Senators Dorgan and Franken in asking the
Senate Budget Committee to increase funding for BIA Education
Construction to the 2003 funding level of $293 million, rather than
decrease funding by $8.9 million as proposed in the President's budget.
What concerns me is that we have known for over a decade that too
many of our tribal schools are in a terrible state of disrepair,
affecting health, safety, and learning.
I want the best for our tribal communities. I know we all do. But
I'm not persuaded that we have all acted well to bring all of our
tribal facilities at least up to code. In fact, I believe that two-
third's of the school facilities rated in ``poor'' condition in 2001
remain in poor condition today, with others improved only to ``fair''
I'd like to hear what plan is in place to address the
deficiencies--including those recommended by several Office of
Inspector General reports. My understanding is that there may be 60,000
safety deficiencies found in the past 6 years that remain unaddressed.
How can this be, if there are tens of millions of dollars that
remain unspent each year by the Office of Facilities Management and
I hope to hear how funding is prioritized--are the schools with the
greatest deficiencies at the top of the priority list?
How are our appropriated funds used and accounted for, how are our
tribal school facilities inspected and how are deficiencies addressed?
This is a critically important issue and I am pleased we are
exploring it in greater depth today. However, it is important that we
follow up with action. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished
panel about how best to do so.
The Chairman. Senator Udall, thank you very much. And
thanks for your work on this subject. It is the case, all of us
understand that when the United States Government has a school,
it is their school. We have a trust responsibility to run this
school for Indian children. If we are not putting these
children in classrooms that we are proud of, that are up to
date, safe and so on, that is our responsibility. We can't
ignore that responsibility.
We are joined by the Honorable Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant
Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of
the Interior. He is the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, I
should say, but in that position runs the BIA. He is
accompanied by Bart Stevens, Acting Director of the Bureau of
Indian Education and Jack Rever, who is the Director of the
Office of Facilities, Environmental Safety and Cultural
Mr. Echo Hawk, Mr. Stevens, and Mr. Rever, thank you.
We are also joined by Mary Kendall, Acting Inspector
General at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Ms. Kendall, thank you for being here.
Mr. Echo Hawk, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY J. ECHO HAWK, ASSISTANT
SECRETARY, INDIAN AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE
INTERIOR, ACCOMPANIED BY BART STEVENS, ACTING
DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF INDIAN EDUCATION, AND
JACK REVER, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF FACILITIES,
ENVIRONMENTAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCES
Mr. Echo Hawk. Mr. Chairman and Mr. Vice Chairman and
Members of the Committee, it is a pleasure for me to be with
you today to talk about the important matter of school safety.
I have with me today the Acting Director of the Bureau of
Indian Education, Bart Stevens, seated to my right; and also
Jack Rever, who is the Director of the Office of Facilities,
Environmental Safety and Cultural Resources, to my left.
I will make brief opening comments, and then we will be, of
course, available to answer whatever questions you may have.
Indian education is a very high priority for the
Administration. Back on January 11 of this year, Secretary
Salazar reached out to Indian Country and invited into his
office about a dozen Indian education experts to counsel with,
have dialogue with about what we can do to better address the
needs of Indian education.
In that meeting was also the Education Secretary Arne
Duncan, and that was nice to see because there is an emphasis
point made on collaborating with the Department of Education to
assure that we are bringing all the resources we can to bear on
the important issues as we try to achieve quality education for
our Bureau of Indian Education schools.
And we are focusing on everything that it takes to achieve
quality education. Of course, academic performance is our
primary goal, but we have to pay attention, of course, to
physical facilities to make sure they are adequate and safe and
And so that is why we are here today to talk about what it
is going to take to make sure that every student has a safe and
secure place to learn. To accomplish that task, we need stable
leadership, and we have had an Acting Director for the Bureau
of Indian Education since 2007.
Secretary Salazar has been very strong in communicating
that we need to get on board a permanent Director of the Bureau
of Indian Education, and I am pleased to say that as of last
Friday on May 7, we announced the selection of Keith Moore to
serve as the new Director for the Bureau of Indian Education.
He is currently serving as the Chief Diversity Officer for the
University of South Dakota, and he has previously served as the
Indian Education Director for the State of South Dakota. He
will be assuming his responsibilities on June 1.
So Secretary Salazar and I look forward to working with
Keith Moore to advance the quality of education for American
Indians and Alaska Natives.
We are doing our best to respond to the safety concerns
that are identified by Office of Inspector General reports, as
well as investigative reports that have recently been brought
to public attention. Let me just briefly highlight some of the
things that we have done just recently to respond to those
reports, and then we will be able to respond to more specific
questions that I am sure you will have.
In response to I.G. reports, we have developed training
materials that address the safety concerns and numerous
training sessions have already been held to make sure that
administrators and school personnel and other individuals
responsible for school safety know what the challenges are and
how to respond to in an appropriate way. The Bureau of Indian
Education is also conducting school safety visits. Those are
underway for all of the 184 schools that we have responsibility
for. Those will be concluded by May of 2012, according to our
School safety specialists have been hired by the Bureau of
Indian Education recently, and we are also working on a number
of national policies pertaining to safe and secure operation of
On December 8th of 2009, we convened a Safe Schools Summit
here in Washington, D.C. and this was an effort to reach out to
other Federal agencies and also private organizations to
collaborate so that we could cultivate relationships and talk
about how to put in place strategic partnerships that would
address some things that will help in this effort to achieve
safety in schools.
I think it is also important to point out that we are
addressing safety school needs in a broader context. Many of
the Bureau of Indian Education Schools are located in high
crime areas, which means that we have to address crime in other
ways besides what is specifically targeted to what is happening
in the classroom.
This Committee has heard previous testimony that we have
presented recently at that hearing. My Senior Policy Adviser
Wizipan Garriott addressed staffing challenges that we face, as
well as training changes that we are making to make sure that
we are achieving high-quality police officers and detention
We are also in the midst of what we call high priority
performance goals for law enforcement in four select
communities in Indian Country. We are demonstrating with
additional resources and some very careful thought about how to
craft individual plans for particular communities that we can
address the crime rates that are occurring out there, turn the
corner, and make those communities safer.
Recently, we have had connection with the Office of
National Drug Control Policy. I was in Albuquerque just last
week where they unveiled their anti-meth Indian Country
initiative. And next week, I will be attending a meeting that
has been convened by Director Kerlikowske here in Washington
where we will talk about a drug control strategy. Indian
Affairs will be represented in those discussions.
One of the other things that I think that has not received
a lot of attention that I think is very important is the
Coordinating Council for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention. That is something that is chaired by the Attorney
General of the United States and various Cabinet departments
are represented on that Coordinating Council.
The purpose is to make sure the Federal Government properly
coordinates all resources of the Federal Government when it is
addressing juvenile delinquency issues. They spotlight certain
things that they are going to try to achieve each year, and we
intervened early in the process and suggested that they take on
Indian youth as one of their four focus areas. I argued in
behalf of that and the Council voted to make Indian youth one
of their priority subjects. So we are going to be working with
the Attorney General and other Cabinet departments to make sure
that we are spotlighting some things that we can make progress
on with regard to juvenile delinquency. My Policy Adviser, Wizi
Garriott, is the Co-Chair of the working group that is
addressing the Indian youth issues.
We are also trying to spotlight efforts to improve how we
are addressing suicide prevention. There are already programs
in place to do that, but we are trying to enhance the efforts
that we are making to address youth suicide. We are hoping to
collaborate with various agencies, even including State
governments, to convene a Youth Suicide Summit later in the
I wanted to briefly comment, since it has been raised,
about the 2011 budget where there has been a $9 million
decrease in the construction budget that has obvious impact on
our efforts to try to shore up certain things that we will be
talking about today. But also in that budget is an increase of
$8.9 million. And that $8.9 million will provide some funding
for safe and secure programs that target high-risk student
behavior, staff training, student counseling, extracurricular
activities and security camera systems and lighting. That is
And there is an increase of $3 million for tribal grant
support. This is for school systems that are not under our
direct supervision, but it gives them the administrative
funding to have flexibility to address the very things that we
are going to be talking about today in those grant schools.
In addition, there is $2 million to establish some
environmental professionals that will be paying attention, and
this will be about a dozen positions, to environmental hazards
that are occurring in schools. What we are talking about here
would be toxic waste and other substances that have been
identified by the EPA. These are problems in all of our Federal
buildings, schools included. And so all 183 schools will be
impacted by the work that is done if that budget request is
Now, I know that it is challenging times when it comes to
budget, but of course we can do really good things with
additional resources, but we are not waiting for additional
resources. I can assure you that given the present budget that
we have and whatever budget is approved for 2011 that we will
make the very best effort that we can to address school safety
I look forward to working with this Committee to assure
that Native American students have the opportunity to obtain a
quality education and that means assuring that we provide them
with a safe and secure place to go to school.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Echo Hawk follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Larry J. Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary,
Indian affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, and members of the
Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of
the Interior's views on the safety conditions of schools under the
jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). The
Administration is committed to providing high-quality educational
opportunities for the students who are educated in the 183 BIE-funded
elementary and secondary schools, consistent with the Federal
Government's trust responsibility for Indian education. In order to
fulfill this responsibility, it is imperative that the Department
provide these students with safe and healthy environments in which to
learn. We are working hard to deploy our resources in the most
effective and efficient manner possible to improve BIE facilities.
The BIE currently funds 183 academic and resident-only facilities
on 63 reservations in 23 states, in addition to providing funding for
26 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and two tribal technical
colleges. The BIE also operates two post-secondary institutions.
Federal funding for the education of American Indian students comes
from both the BIE and the Department of Education. The 183 BIE
elementary and secondary schools educate approximately 42,000 students,
which represents a small fraction of the total American Indian student
population in the United States. Despite our many challenges in BIE, we
are making strides in improving Indian education. After declines in
previous years, we have seen an increase of 9 percent in the number of
BIE schools meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) from school year
2007-2008 to 2008-2009, but we are still far from achieving our goals.
This Administration is deeply committed to moving things in the right
Collaborative Efforts on Indian Education Within the BIE
President Obama has made improving our nation's education system a
top priority, stating, ``[w]e have an obligation and a responsibility
to be investing in our students and our schools.''
With this focus, the President has also charged those in his
Administration with living up to these responsibilities by improving
the delivery of educational services to Indian Country. This charge
requires us to work across various agencies, and with tribal leaders,
to identify and implement this objective in the best way possible.
Earlier this year, Secretary Salazar convened an historic meeting
with Indian education experts from across the nation, along with
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and me. This meeting allowed senior
administration officials and Indian Country leaders to begin a candid
dialogue about what works in providing education services to Indian
Country. We look forward to continuing this dialogue.
I am happy to report that my senior staff has been working closely
with members of Secretary Duncan's staff on coordinating our resources
to maximize our impact on Indian education. I have been impressed by
Secretary Duncan's commitment to improving education for American
children, and his keen awareness of the needs in Indian Country.
Recently, several senior officials from the Department of
Education, including the Under Secretary, Martha Kanter, the General
Counsel, Charlie Rose, and various Assistant Secretaries and Deputy
Assistant Secretaries held four regional consultations on tribal lands
on the subject of Indian education. These senior officials spent time
visiting with administrators, teachers, and students at BIE schools.
They were able to witness firsthand the conditions in a number of these
My staff is working with other federal departments to better
coordinate our delivery of education-related services. Wizipan
Garriott, my Policy Advisor, is serving as Co-Chairman of the Tribal
Youth and Juvenile Justice Work Group of the Coordinating Council on
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (Coordinating Council). The
Coordinating Council, which is chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder,
is an independent body within the executive branch of the Federal
Government. The Coordinating Council's primary functions are to
coordinate federal juvenile delinquency prevention programs, federal
programs and activities that detain or care for unaccompanied
juveniles, and federal programs relating to missing and exploited
We are also working with the Indian Health Service in HHS, and
other organizations, to reverse the epidemic of youth suicides in
Indian Country. Each young person who attempts to take his or her own
life creates a widespread ripple-effect on their community, causing a
deep and profound impact on students, parents, and teachers, and
diminishing the richness of their learning environment. We view our
efforts to combat youth suicide in Indian Country as central to our
efforts to improve Indian education.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Funding Within DOI/Indian
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided much-
needed funding to replace dilapidated facilities with state-of-the art
schools, and to make repairs to existing schools to improve the
learning environment for thousands of students. The ARRA provided
$134.6 million to replace deteriorating Bureau-funded schools in a pre-
established priority order published in the Federal Register. It also
provided $143.1 million to repair building structure and system
components that are necessary to sustain and prolong the useful life of
Bureau-funded education buildings. Projects that did not receive
funding under ARRA have been identified to improve the safety and
functionality of facilities and improve the educational environment for
the Indian children who attend those facilities.
Director of the Bureau of Indian Education
Upon taking office, we worked to identify a number of improvements
that needed to be made to enhance the delivery of our education
services. We realized immediately that it was imperative to bring
stability and leadership to the BIE, which is why we worked together
with Indian Country to select a new Director for the Bureau of Indian
I am happy to report that, after a very lengthy process, Mr. Keith
Moore was selected to become the new Director for the BIE and will
begin his duties on June 1, 2010.
Mr. Moore most recently held the position of Chief Diversity
Officer at the University of South Dakota. He has also served as the
Indian Education Director for the State of South Dakota. Mr. Moore
graduated in 1990 from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South
Dakota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical
Education/Social Sciences, and he received a Masters degree in
Educational Administration from South Dakota State University--
Brookings in 2002. He also holds a Governor Rounds' South Dakota
Leadership Development Program Masters-Level Certification and he
received a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Montana
State University--Bozeman in 2009.
Mr. Moore will be responsible for the line direction and management
of all education functions, including the formation of policies and
procedures, the supervision of all program activities and the approval
of the expenditure of funds appropriated for education functions.
Secretary Salazar and I will be looking to Mr. Moore to help carry
forward the initiatives at the BIE that help improve the quality of
education for our Indian Youth.
Meeting our Challenges
A. Office of Inspector General Report
As I indicated above, we are well aware of the challenges we face
in Indian Country, and we are eager to tackle those challenges head-on.
This is why, when the Bureau received a report by the Office of the
Inspector General (OIG) highlighting concerns about school violence at
BIE-funded schools across our nation, I embraced these recommendations
and sought to make changes. The February 2010 OIG Report made four
recommendations to address the need to improve safety for our students
and our teachers at BIE facilities. We've taken immediate steps to
implement those recommendations, and to improve the overall security
climate at our learning institutions.
First, the BIE is providing--to both BIE staff and tribal education
staff--training in such areas as: anger management; bullying
prevention; suicide prevention; drug abuse resistance; emergency
preparedness; and, continuity of operations. The BIE hosted the
National Safe and Secure Schools Conference in Dallas, Texas, which
provided participants from our funded schools with training and
resources on a number of these, and other, issues. This effort was only
a beginning; the BIE has also provided other training such as:
10 research-based Bullying and Suicide Prevention training
sessions for 450 participants from 183 schools and dorms.
4 Native Hope Suicide Prevention trainings.
Annual training at its Summer Institutes to address school
In addition to conventional training, BIE has sought to implement
innovative solutions with its Positive Best Behavior Supports Project
(Project). The Project is an evidence-based discipline program which
provides school-wide approaches to reducing the number of instances of
anti-social or violent behavior, and supports positive behavioral
changes. The BIE is currently providing Project training to staff at
schools across Indian Country. Since January 2009, 227 individuals from
49 schools have received this training. Our trainers have visited 23
sites to provide technical assistance and perform 84 evaluation
BIE staff are also currently engaged in a federal agency
collaborative working group to coordinate and improve bullying
prevention--including the organization of a bullying prevention summit
this summer. Materials from the federal Stop Bullying Now campaign have
been sent to Indian Health Service area offices.
We are also putting the final touches on internal policies and
procedures for Standard Operating Procedures for all BIE-operated
schools to address the OIG recommendations, and to address additional
areas, such as: a Student Health Service; Prohibiting Drugs, Alcohol,
Tobacco and Inhalants; Medication; and Sexual Harassment. We hope to
have these policies and procedures in place by early summer.
With respect to the two remaining OIG recommendations, the BIE is
working on both in tandem in a phased approach to conduct school visits
and develop safety policies specific to each school site. Work began
immediately by BIE with Phase 1 of the 3-phase plan to be concluded for
the first 20 schools by October 1, 2010. To date, 18 schools have been
visited. Phase 2 will target 20 more schools with a target completion
date of May 1, 2011; and Phase 3 will target the remaining 143 schools
to be completed by May 1, 2012.
B. BIA Safety Program
Since 2002, the condition of federally funded Indian schools has
improved dramatically. Over $2.2 billion in construction and repair and
maintenance funds have been devoted to reducing the number of schools
in poor condition as determined by the Facilities Condition Index (FCI)
by 50 percent. Note that a school is defined as being in poor condition
if it has an FCI of over 0.10; however, being in ``poor condition''
does not necessarily imply that critical health and safety issues are
present. Yet we recognize that more must be done.
The BIA's safety program addresses life safety deficiencies first
and foremost. Life safety deficiencies are considered to be work that
needs to be completed as a result of safety inspection reports. This is
to ensure that those most critical situations are addressed
immediately. Indian Affairs has ensured that these inspections continue
by hiring contractors to conduct the inspections when necessary.
Projects are prioritized through this process by safety code
designation, such as life safety code, EPA requirements, and ADA
requirements. Funds from the Bureau's Minor Improvement and Repair
Program, commonly referred to as MI&R, are used for the abatement of
those identified critical deficiencies costing less than $2,500. The
Education MI&R program for FY 2010 is funded at $7.6 million, and other
relevant line items such as Condition Assessment, Emergency Repair, and
Environmental Projects provide an additional $8.1 million for similar
In my prior response to this Committee on February 25, 2010, when
asked about our estimated school construction backlog, I stated that we
have an estimated school construction need of $1.3 billion.
This is the estimated cost to bring the 63 schools remaining in
poor condition (after all currently available funding is used) to an
acceptable level. In some instances, this figure includes more than
simply fixing the deferred maintenance items. For example, if a school
has a number of leaks in the roof, in the long run it will be more
economical to replace the entire roof rather than continue to fix leaks
year after year. Therefore, the cost to replace the entire roof in
included in the figure above, rather than the cost to repair all the
separate leaks. Likewise, it might also be more economical to replace
an entire building or school rather than to repair a number of deferred
maintenance projects. If this is the case, the cost to replace the
building is included above. It is important to note that the cost to
simply repair the deferred maintenance at each of these schools on a
project by project basis is much less than this $1.3 billion. However,
we cannot simply use the estimated deferred maintenance cost as a basis
for what the true cost will be to bring a school into acceptable
The challenges we face were not created overnight, and we do not
expect that they will be solved in such a short time. We are working
hard to coordinate our efforts with other federal agencies, and tribes,
to ensure that we can maximize our impact.
We hope that by collaborating with our sister agencies and Indian
Country leaders, we can develop and implement new solutions to improve
the conditions for our children. We know that we face a daunting task
in providing adequate and safe school facilities, and we will continue
to do the best we can to address school safety problems.
We look forward to working with this Committee to ensure that
American Indian students have a safe and secure learning environment.
Thank you for the opportunity to address this issue and I will be
pleased to respond to any questions the Committee may have.
The Chairman. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
Ms. Kendall, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF MARY L. KENDALL, ACTING INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Ms. Kendall. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the
Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify this
morning about school safety in Bureau of Indian Education-
As you know, in February of this year, the Office of
Inspector General issued an evaluation of school violence
prevention measures. We conducted this review to determine the
quality of school safety measures in preventing violence
against both students and staff from internal and external
Overall, our evaluation revealed many indicators of
potential violence, insufficient school policies aimed at
preventing violence, and substantial deficiencies in preventive
and emergency safety procedures. As a result, many schools are
dangerous unprepared to prevent violence and ensure the safety
of students and staff.
Perhaps one of the most critical methods of deterring on-
campus violence lies in the overall awareness, understanding
and ability to detect indicators of violence by school staff
and administrators. In May of 2002, the U.S. Secret Service
issued a report analyzing 37 school-based attacks and found
that most attackers displayed indicators of violence in advance
of an incident.
We learned, however, that training in basic violence
prevention such as anger management, bully prevention and gang
awareness had not been provided at many of the schools we
visited. Additionally, staff members at some schools stated
that they were not trained on how to recognize gang indicators.
Tracking violence and violent trends within Indian schools
is particularly problematic because no comprehensive reporting
or tracking system exists. Because Indian communities suffer
from high violent crime rates, maintaining a secure campus is
as important as keeping weapons off campus.
We identified an array of physical security deficiencies
such as security fencing, camera surveillance systems, visitor
procedures and security guards. More than 80 percent of the
schools we visited did not have adequate fencing, allowing for
the potential of unauthorized individuals to enter the
campuses. At White Shield school in rural North Dakota, for
example, there is no fencing, nor a security guard.
Almost all the schools had operable surveillance cameras,
but many of the systems had flaws. Most schools, for instance,
did not operate their systems in real time, missing the
opportunity for using this valuable tool to prevent or defuse
incidents of violence. Instead, the cameras were used to review
past footage and identify the instigators of suspicious
activities or violence.
We also found that not every school we visited required
visitors to sign in or show identification. More than half did
not require visitors to wear identifying badges. At one school,
we purposely bypassed the designated visitor entrance, wandered
the school grounds, and were able to approach several
classrooms without being stopped or questions by staff.
The presence of gang indicators is in almost half of the
schools we visited. Gang letters and figures were scrawled on
the exterior walls, bathroom stalls, and inside dormitories.
One official at a school in Arizona estimated that 75 percent
of the school's students were in gangs. Officials at a school
near Seattle, Washington said that community gang activity had
led to the death of four or five former students.
Many schools acknowledge the need to be diligent in
recognizing and eliminating gang indicators on campus and have
done so using a variety of available gang prevention programs,
including an in-class curriculum taught by law enforcement
officers and aimed at preventing school delinquency, violence
and gang involvement.
Finally, most of these schools are simply not prepared for
an emergency. We reviewed emergency plans at almost all schools
visited and requested that each school run an emergency drill
according to plan. We noted numerous deficiencies in schools'
abilities to run the drills due to high staff turnover,
ineffective intercom systems, and inadequate classroom
security. Some of the lock-down drill we observed revealed that
classroom doors could only be locked from the outside. As a
result, staff needed to go outdoors to lock the doors with
keys, exposing staff and students to potential danger.
These are some of the issues we uncovered during our visits
to schools throughout Indian Country.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony and I would be
happy to answer any questions the Committee might have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Kendall follows:]
Prepared Statement of Mary L. Kendall, Acting Inspector General, U.S.
Department of the Interior
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you
for the opportunity to testify today about school safety in Bureau of
Indian Education (BIE) funded schools. As you know, in February of this
year, the Office of Inspector General issued an evaluation of school
violence prevention measures. We conducted this review to determine the
quality of school safety measures in preventing violence against both
students and staff, from both internal and external threats.
Overall, our evaluation revealed many indicators of potential
violence, deficiencies in school policies aimed at preventing violence,
and substantial deficiencies in preventative and emergency safety
procedures. As a result, many schools are dangerously unprepared to
prevent violence and ensure the safety of students and staff.
In March of 2005, a 16-year-old student shot and killed himself and
seven others at Red Lake High School, a public school on the Red Lake
Indian reservation, indicating that school violence also threatens
Perhaps one of the most critical methods of deterring on-campus
violence lies in the overall awareness, understanding and ability to
detect indicators of violence by school staff and administrators. In
May of 2002, the U.S. Secret Service issued a report analyzing 37
school-based attacks, and found that most attackers display indicators
of violence in advance of an incident. The Red Lake shooter was known
to have created animation depicting extremely violent acts of death and
elaborate drawings of people being shot or hanged.
During our visit to Chemawa Indian School in Oregon, we saw
similarly violent drawings inside a student's dormitory room. A portion
of one wall was covered with depictions of a beheading, stabbing, and a
body hanging from a tree. Chemawa school officials were unaware of the
violent depictions until we brought this to their attention. A school
official said the student should have been referred for counseling, and
that dormitory checks were not being adequately performed or the
artwork would already have been removed.
Indicators of violence, such as the Chemawa graphic drawings, are
reminders that deadly acts of violence can strike even seemingly
peaceful schools. Teachers, administrators and other staff should be
trained to understand and address all indicators of violence. We found,
however, that training in basic violence prevention such as anger
management, bully prevention, and gang awareness was not provided at
many of the schools we visited. Additionally, staff members at some
schools stated they were not trained on how to recognize gang
Tracking violence and/or violent trends within Indian schools is
particularly problematic because no functional, comprehensive reporting
or tracking system exists. While we found few statistics on violence
indicators at Indian schools, we found a wealth of supporting anecdotal
evidence during our visits. For example, we found confiscated weapons,
signs of gang activity, and substance abuse.
Weapons end up on campuses as a result of numerous inadequate
physical security features. For example, almost all of Sherman Indian
School's 360 students live on campus, and many take air transportation
to get there. School officials said that they rely on airport security
to find dangerous items in students' luggage and do not conduct
contraband searches upon their arrival. Airport security, however,
allows items in checked baggage that the school would not want on
campus. Only one of the schools we visited used a walk-through metal
Given the fact that Indian communities suffer from high violent
crime rates, maintaining a secure campus is as important as keeping
weapons off campus. We identified an array of physical security
deficiencies in areas such as security fencing, camera surveillance
systems, visitor procedures, and security guards.
More than 80 percent of the schools we visited did not have
adequate fencing, allowing for the potential of unauthorized
individuals to enter the campuses. At White Shield School in rural
North Dakota, there is no fencing or even a security guard. In March of
2008, the school locked down for a possible student with a gun; police
took 30 minutes to arrive after they were called. Fortunately, the
situation was resolved peacefully.
Almost all the schools had operable surveillance cameras, but many
of the systems had flaws. Most schools, for instance, did not operate
their systems in real time, missing out on the possibility of using
this valuable tool to prevent or diffuse incidents of violence.
Instead, the cameras were only used to review past footage and identify
the instigators of suspicious activities or violence.
We found that every school we visited had a designated visitor
entrance. But a large number of schools did not require visitors to
sign in or show identification. More than half did not require visitors
to wear identifying badges. At one school, we purposely bypassed the
designated visitor entrance, wandered the school grounds, and were able
to approach several classrooms without being stopped or questioned by
The presence of gang indicators in Indian schools we visited was
undeniable. Gang letters and figures were scrawled on the exterior
walls, bathroom stalls, and inside the dormitories of almost half of
the schools we visited. One official at a school in Arizona estimated
that 75 percent of the school's students were in gangs. Other schools
expressed concern over students whose parents were active gang members.
School officials at a school near Seattle, Washington said that
community gang activity had led to the deaths of four or five former
students and the incarceration of several more for gang-related drive-
Many schools acknowledged the need to be diligent in recognizing
and eliminating gang indicators on campus, and have done so using a
variety of available gang prevention programs, such as The GREAT
Program, Gang Resistance Education and Training, an in-class curriculum
taught by a law enforcement officers aimed at preventing school
delinquency, violence, and gang involvement.
Drugs and alcohol also cause significant problems in Indian
Country. Alcohol abuse is the ``single biggest challenge'' facing
Indian communities and police departments, according to a 2001 National
Institute of Justice report. Child abuse, domestic violence, assault,
driving under the influence, sale of alcohol to minors, and neglect
tend to be byproducts of substance abuse.
Site visits revealed that even though drug and alcohol abuse may
not run rampant inside school walls, they are community issues that
affect students at school. Local law enforcement and school officials
confirmed that drug dealers live within a half mile of three different
schools we visited. One school official told us that students could
easily access drugs and acknowledged many entry points for drugs to
Finally, most of these schools are simply not prepared for an
emergency. We reviewed emergency plans at almost all schools visited.
We requested that each school run the emergency drills according to
plan to identify any weaknesses. We noted numerous deficiencies in
schools' abilities to run the drills due to high staff turnover,
ineffective intercom systems, and inadequate classroom security. Lock-
down drills we observed revealed that most schools had classroom doors
that could only be locked from the outside. As a result, staff needed
to go outside to lock doors with keys, exposing staff and students to
These are some of the issues we uncovered in our visits to schools
throughout Indian Country. Our February report on school violence was
preceded by a report in August 2008 addressing preparedness to address
violence in BIE operated schools. Our findings were not surprisingly
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be happy to
answer any questions the Committee might have. Thank you for the
opportunity to appear here today.
The Chairman. Ms. Kendall, thank you very much.
To my colleagues, I would say Senator Franken indicated he
has to leave nearly immediately and wants to ask one question.
Senator Franken. I apologize.
The Chairman. With the indulgence of our colleagues, let me
Senator Franken. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to
my colleagues for your indulgence.
Mr. Echo Hawk, the Circle of Life School on the White Earth
Reservation in Minnesota is one of the few fortunate BIE
schools that will be rebuilt in the near future with
groundbreaking slated for June of this year. In talking to
tribe, it seems that the process for the school replacement
took much longer than it should have. It was years and years
even after the Federal funding was secured.
Much of this was due to a lack of responsiveness from BIA.
In White Earth's contact with the BIA for the school
construction, the agency has 21 days to respond to each of the
tribe's submitted plans for construction of the school, yet
there have been many instances when the BIA has taken over two
months to reply and in other cases the tribe received no
comment or response at all.
What are you doing to address lack of responsiveness of
your regional BIA offices?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Franken, I think you are aware that
I have been on the job only 11 months, but I can assure you,
and I think I am speaking for Secretary Salazar as well, that
we take these issues very seriously. I like to know when there
are problems of responsiveness because we will address those
We have recently added a new Bureau of Indian Affairs
Director, and I just commented we have a new Bureau of Indian
Education Director starting on June 1. I look to those
individuals to make sure that we are responding in a timely
Senator Franken. Thank you and I hope you stay on top of
I have been told that advocates for American Indian
students have reached out to the BIA to ask what the Bureau
planned to do to respond to recommendations in the OIG's report
on school violence. While the BIA's official written response
to the OIG report was due on March 3, the advocates were unable
to obtain the written response or any concrete answers.
I appreciate that you are beginning to share the answers
with us now, but it shouldn't take a hearing to obtain them. I
am noting a pattern here. It seems like every time we want
information that should be readily available to the public, we
have to turn up the heat and hold a hearing. For example, the
BIA finally agreed to post its facility condition index list
only after my staff made it clear that I planned to ask for it
to be made publicly available at the hearing we recently held
on school construction. This pattern to me is unacceptable.
How will the BIA ensure that the actions it will take in
response to the OIG's report will be transparent to the public?
And what can the BIA do to improve the transparency of its
operations more generally?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Franken, I believe in transparency
and I think this issue came up at a prior time that I
testified. And I can just assure Committee Members that I will
press to make sure that we disclose the things that we should
be disclosing in a timely manner.
I just invite the Committee Members to call me directly if
you have constituents that are contacting you with concerns
about timeliness. I can assure you that I will respond to that.
Senator Franken. We will do that.
You say in your written testimony, ``We are working hard to
deploy our resources in the most effective and efficient manner
possible to improve BIE facilities.'' I want to address the
issue of costs of replacing BIA schools. BIA's Director of
Facilities Jack Rever, who is here today, told my staff a while
back that it cost approximately $30 million to $50 million to
replace a BIE school. And there is only $52.8 million in the
President's budget for Indian school construction for this
entire year. So we have an enormous cost per school and barely
any money in the budget to fund it.
Mr. Secretary, is the cost of replacing a BIE school
comparable for the costs associated with schools in non-tribal
areas? And if there is a difference, what accounts for it?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Franken, I do not personally know
the answer to your question about whether or not there are
comparable costs. Generally, the schools that we build are in
isolated areas and I assume that would mean that it would be
more difficult and costly to construct them. But in terms of
the structures that we are building, I would have to defer to
Jack Rever to see if he has any comment. If the Committee would
like him to respond, I would be glad to have him do so.
Senator Franken. I would love to know. I would love to have
some analysis of this because it seems like the schools are
awfully expensive to build.
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Franken, we can provide an answer to
that specific question.
Senator Franken. Thank you. I appreciate that, Mr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize to everyone that I
have to leave to another hearing. Thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Franken.
Senator Tester. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to once again thank the panelists for being here.
The first question, Larry, this hearing is about BIE
schools, but overall in Indian Country is there a level of
violence in Indian schools that is unacceptable, from your
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Tester, yes.
Senator Tester. Okay. I don't know if you have had the
ability to make a determination on how many schools it is that
way. Is it in every school that is in Indian Country? Or is it
50 percent of them, 75 percent of them? And I know there are a
lot of factors in there, but do you have any idea on how many
schools were violent?
And Mary, if you know this, it would be good to have you
asked. But I am just curious what percentage of schools in
Indian Country where violence is a problem.
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Tester, the BIE schools are located
in 23 different States, but I think generally we all recognize
that crime in Indian Country is a problem in all regions.
Senator Tester. Okay.
Mary, the investigation that you did, the work that you
have done, did you see violence across the board in every
school you visited?
Ms. Kendall. I would say yes. There were indicators of
violence at all schools. The question of actual violence, we
haven't had a serious incident, I believe, in Indian schools
since the Red Lake incident. But the concern we had were the
indicators and the preparedness of staff and administration on-
Senator Tester. Okay.
Larry, back to you. You had mentioned some things that you
have done in Indian Country more globally when it comes to
violence, and I appreciate those efforts. Specifically, you
talked about $8.5 million that is being utilized for safe and
secure programs, security cameras, teacher training, and
environmental hazards, those kind of things.
You are in a position of reasonable authority here. What do
you think is the key, the one or two or three keys, not only in
BIE schools, but all schools in Indian Country, that could do
to help curb the violence?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Tester, I think the things that we
are doing right now in response to the I.G. report to provide
training, as an example, to make sure that our administrators
and educators understand the things that they should recognize
that are a precursor to some violent events.
There are a number of things that we have to deal with when
we talk about violence and other threats. But let me just
comment that the reason we have high crime areas in virtually
every part of Indian Country has to do with healthy families. I
have given a couple of speeches recently where I said we are
ratcheting up our criminal law enforcement. We are going to
reduce crime levels through tough law enforcement. And I think
we have to do that.
But I have also said at the end of those speeches, we are
not going to arrest ourselves out of the problem; that we have
to create healthy families. And so I personally don't think we
are probably giving enough attention to that area.
Senator Tester. I don't want to take us off this topic
area, but you bring up a very good point and I agree with you.
We can't take care of it at the back end. We need to start
taking care of it at the front end.
Can you tell me what the BIA is doing to help solve or at
least make inroads into the problem of healthy families?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Tester, I would say that we are not
doing enough, but I think to create healthy families, that
means you need a provider in the home. And when you have Indian
communities that have 80 percent to 85 percent unemployment, we
have to spark the economies. We also have to have social
services available to be able to help lift those families.
Senator Tester. Okay. I would tend to agree. This is such a
problem, it is hard to get your arms around it because there
are so many things that impact it, whether it is healthy
families, adequate law enforcement, schools that you can be
proud of. And when you talk about staff training, I am a former
teacher myself. If I have a choice between going to a school
that is safe and clean versus a school that is potentially
unsafe and unclean, I know what decision I am going to make,
plus the family impact.
So I will just close by saying this, and very much respect
your abilities and your leadership in the Department, but we
have limited dollars and we are really going to have to focus
on things that are going to make a difference. And your
leadership in that Department is going to make a big difference
as the budget cycle rolls on.
I would appreciate as we go forth with all the dollars for
Indian Country that you make sure that the emphasis is where it
needs to be to do the most good. That is kind of a no-brainer,
but the fact is that I think you are spot-on when you say we
can't arrest our way out of this situation.
The Chairman. Senator Tester, thank you very much.
Senator Udall. Thank you, Chairman Dorgan.
Secretary Echo Hawk, I first want to applaud you for the
initiatives you talked about that you are carrying out in order
to try to get on top of school safety and school violence and
all of the problems that plague the BIA schools.
I think one of the keys is, as you said, mobilizing these
other resources around the Federal Government, the Department
of Justice and Health and Human Services, and getting them
involved in the problem. That is a very positive thing to see
the Department of Justice take on the issue that you outlined
here a little bit earlier.
Let me ask you the question, when you look at the resources
that are needed to do the job in terms of getting the schools
safe, and then the lack of resources. Obviously, you are using
what you have right now. How do you determine in the overall
picture what are the most serious violations at these schools?
Where are the kids in the most danger? And then how do you
It seems like you have a situation where you have
significant deterioration overall, but then identifying the
schools where there are the worst problems and then trying to
tackle those. What do you bring to this effort to do that?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Udall, are you speaking about the
Senator Udall. The structures, the safety violations, the
code violations, all of the things that have come out in the
Inspector General reports and other OIG reports and things like
Mr. Echo Hawk. I understand your question to be how do we
identify the really critical areas.
Senator Udall. Yes, you have so much to do and it is so
big, how do you get focused in to pick the things that may be a
disaster tomorrow, because you can't do them all? That is my
question. Do you have somebody on top of that, looking at that
and trying to identify preventing the disasters of tomorrow?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Well, I think it has already been testified
to that the kind of problems that we are talking about exist in
virtually all regions, all schools. To prioritize where we put
that, there has got to be some attention given to that. I don't
know if either Jack Rever, he is the one that would probably
know most about that, or Bart Stevens would have any comment
about what specifically they are doing.
In terms of my knowledge base, I know that the problems are
pervasive and we are trying to deal with them in all schools.
Senator Udall. Yes, yes. I know you are trying to deal with
all the problems, it is just that if a school is going to fall
down and kill 20 kids or 100 kids or something like that
tomorrow, that is the one I would want you to be on top of,
rather than the other things that are going to happen down the
line. That is the kind of urgency that I am talking about in my
Mr. Rever. Senator, I am Jack Rever, the Director of
Facilities, Environmental Culture Resources and Safety, and run
the evaluation program for the school, measuring the
deficiencies, measuring the risk. And so it is a risk
management issue that you have identified.
We have a multitude of inspection processes that we go
through. We have the annual workplace safety inspections which
is OSHA-based reviews, and that is the electrical outlets and
whether the operating equipment in the shops have proper guards
on them to make sure the kids or the teachers don't get hurt.
We also have triennial inspections by engineers and
engineering technicians to go through and evaluate each
building that we have, particularly the schools. And in
addition, of course, the primary responsible is to the people
on-site, the facility managers. They identify these
deficiencies to us. We then go through a risk assessment.
There are two contexts for all risk assessment. One is the
likelihood of occurrence of whatever might be resulting from
that deficiency, and then the consequences of that occurrence
happening. Then we rate those in a category of one through
five. One is if it is an imminent problem, an emergency.
Regardless of cost, it is going to be corrected or countered
within eight hours. That is the requirement and we are very
successful. Those never show up on any reports because a phone
call to my staff in Albuquerque to identify that particular
problem marshals the resources and the dollars to solve it.
A good example, and this has happened to us. We have had a
school in which a structural engineer published a report that
came to my desk within hours that said there was a structural
problem. I ordered the school closed and the students evacuated
until we could get a structural engineering firm in there to do
a full evaluation. That obviously is number one.
We do not operate schools that represent an imminent danger
to students, faculty or visitors. That is how we prioritize our
work. I wish we had sufficient funds to answer every
deficiency, but we prioritize the most defficient, most risk to
the students and take care of it immediately. And we work our
way down to the extent that our fiscal capability lets us do
that. When I say ``fiscal,'' I mean dollars that let us do
That is how we establish priorities for immediate response
and long-term response for our projects.
Senator Udall. That is good to hear. That is good to hear.
Chairman Dorgan, I know I have run over a little bit and
greatly appreciate your courtesies on that. Thank you.
The Chairman. Senator Udall, thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF HON. TIM JOHNSON,
U.S. SENATOR FROM SOUTH DAKOTA
Senator Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman
And welcome to the Committee Mr. Echo Hawk. I applaud your
choice of BIE Director, Mr. Keith Moore, who is a fellow South
Dakotan and is currently at the University of South Dakota.
USD's loss is BIE's gain.
Indian students in South Dakota often have to travel on
dangerous roads and in dangerous weather conditions. Does BIE
and BIA have a plan for ensuring student safety while traveling
to and from schools?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator, I am well aware of the problems
that exist out there on those roadways. As I have traveled in
Indian Country, tribal leaders bring that to my attention on a
regular basis and talk about their road and bridge problems.
We are working with the Department of Transportation to
address those needs. There was a substantial amount of ARRA
funding that came in that allowed us to take care of part of
the problems, but there are still many needs that exist out
We are presently focusing on the equity formula to make
sure that the funds that we do have available are distributed
in an equitable way and we have heard a lot of complaints by
tribal leadership that that is not an equitable process right
now and we are looking into that.
Senator Johnson. There are four regional offices without
safety officers. What actions are being taken to fill these
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator, I am aware that we have some of the
regional offices that do not have a safety officer, and we are
pressing to make sure that those positions are filled, and that
the inspections that we are supposed to be doing are actually
done. I have seen information that shows that that is not
happening, but that has been brought to my attention and we are
focusing on that now.
Senator Johnson. Unsafe school environments also greatly
contribute to personnel turnover. What efforts are being made
to improve retention of teachers and administrators?
Mr. Echo Hawk. That is a good question and a challenging
question. I think I am going to defer that question to Bart
Stevens, who is the Acting Director, to comment on specific
things that are done to retain and recruit teachers.
Mr. Stevens. Thank you.
As far as retention and recruitment efforts go within the
Bureau of Indian Education, we recently hired a recruiter who
is forming partnerships with local universities and colleges in
Indian Country to actively recruit administrators and teachers.
As far as retention of Federal teachers, which are one-
third of our BIE-operated schools, there are incentives in
place, differential salary increases to retain teachers in
those more isolated locations, those hard to fill positions.
As far as the two-thirds of our schools which are tribally
controlled grant schools, we have no authority on the turnover
or not of those schools that are tribally operated, but that is
what we are doing for our Federal programs that are BIE-
Senator Johnson. Ms. Kendall, of the 22 Indian schools
assessed by OIG, were any schools surveyed in South Dakota? If
so, which ones?
Ms. Kendall. Senator Johnson, off the top of my head, I
don't recall which ones. I would be happy to provide you that
Senator Johnson. Ms. Kendall, while the BIE has made
progress on deficiencies identified in the report, many schools
in South Dakota experience dangerous conditions and violent
atmospheres. Will there be another evaluation made in the
Ms. Kendall. We often will follow up a report with what we
call a validation effort to make sure that the things that BIE
in this case have said that they will do in response to our
reports have in fact been done.
We want to give them time enough to respond to the report
and in this case, they have laid out a plan that will be
finalized by May, 2012. And so it would be at that point that
we would probably go out and take another look and validate
Senator Johnson. In May, 2012?
Ms. Kendall. Yes, sir.
Senator Johnson. Thank you.
The Chairman. Senator Johnson, thank you very much.
Let me ask a couple of questions, then we have a second
panel as well.
Mr. Echo Hawk, my understanding is that current information
tells us that Department safety officers have identified 85,000
safety deficiencies at the school system that you run, we run.
And only 25,000 have been corrected. So we have two-thirds of
safety deficiencies on a list, apparently, that exists at the
BIA that are unaddressed.
How do we reconcile that? How do we justify that? What do
we tell people, families, taxpayers? This is our school system.
And I understand that any investigation would show
deficiencies, but what I don't understand is this. If we have
reports that show there are 85,000 safety deficiencies and only
one-third have been corrected, what is the deal?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Dorgan, obviously that is a problem
when you have any deficiencies in schools, and to be able to
only address a third of them is cause for concern. But we are
addressing the priority deficiencies, as Mr. Rever described.
We have that process in place to identify the most serious, and
we are addressing those. But part of the problem is just
resources, not having the resources to be able to address every
single one of them.
The Chairman. But let me ask a question, then. My
colleague, Senator Udall, had a reporter go do a look at a
school and did a couple of reports that I think are
embarrassing to the Federal Government. It is our school
system. We are responsible for what happens there.
On the Pine Hill School, you have 275 kids as young as six
years old. They don't have a fire alarm. And so if there were a
fire this afternoon in the library, elementary school, middle
school and high school maintenance shops, new dormitories, none
of those people in those areas would hear a fire alarm.
Now, is that an urgency or is that one that somebody would
say comes under your eight-hour limit? If you don't have a fire
alarm, send out somebody to fix that fire alarm because if
there is a fire, kids are going to die?
So what falls through the cracks here?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Senator Dorgan, I think on that particular
report, I am going to ask Jack Rever to respond because he sent
a team out there to those very same schools to address those
The Chairman. All right.
Mr. Rever. Mr. Chairman, thank you. It is true that the
Pine Hill School fire alarm system does not work. Our
procedures are very specific and this happens throughout the
Country, every fire alarm system. Many of them are old and they
fail, parts of them fail, and they go into failure mode.
It is an absolute requirement within our system that a fire
watch be posted every hour that that building is occupied.
The Chairman. A what?
Mr. Rever. Fire watch, an individual who has the
responsibility to make sure that there is somebody out
wandering the halls and looking for potential fire dangers and
sounding an alarm if necessary.
The Chairman. Sounding what alarm if the alarm is dead?
Mr. Rever. There are a variety of ways to do that. You can
use hand-held warning devices or you can use whistles. You can
do P.A. system announcements. You can use runners. And those
are all required under our regulations.
The Chairman. I understand, but you are not saying it is
okay if the fire alarm doesn't work because there are
Mr. Rever. Absolutely not, sir, because fire alarms in the
condition of the one in Pine Hill are so deteriorated that it
has to be replaced in kind, and we have a project underway
right now out of the Recovery Act funds that is going to
replace that fire alarm system.
So we are aware of it. It is on our priority list. We have
gone through the risk analysis and we have provided over
$300,000 just for the fire alarm system itself at Pine Hill.
The Chairman. Well, the school you run at Standing Rock in
North Dakota has no fire alarms, no sprinkler system. Does that
work under your eight-hour rule?
Mr. Rever. No, sir, it does not, but that is on the list
The Chairman. But my point is, look, you guys are not
coming in here saying look, by God, we need more money because
kids will die if we don't do this. If there is a fire in
Standing Rock today, and in the aftermath of that they take a
look at what went on there, and we know that there is no fire
alarm capability and no sprinkler system, we knew that and we
said it is okay for kids to go to school because we know that
and we will fix it later.
That is not acceptable. I am just using the fire alarm in
New Mexico and North Dakota as an example. If you owned an
apartment building and your fire alarm didn't work; if you as
an owner weren't apoplectic about that, shame on you. You
wouldn't dare have the liability of owning an apartment
building and say it is okay if my fire alarm doesn't work.
Yet we own a school and we have fire alarms all over the
Country that don't work and we say, well, we will have somebody
with a whistle in the hallway. That is not acceptable to me.
Look, I understand that you can find safety violations
everywhere in every school system. My point is, Mr. Echo Hawk,
if you have 85,000 and only one-third are addressed and two-
thirds are not, and they include things like basic safety
issues, real safety issues that can kill kids.
Let me just ask another question because I think in many
ways the folks at New Mexico have done us a service. I don't
know these people that did it, but the journalists that did
this said there are cracks in load-bearing walls in the school
gym. The BIA did direct Alamo to hire a structural engineer to
evaluate the gym walls. They have not provided the money to pay
for the evaluation so no one, not the Alamo School, the BIA or
the students or the faculty who use the gym, know whether it is
safe or not.
I don't understand. In this school as well, the fire alarm
system hasn't worked properly in years. They have been asking
for upgrades for eight years. I have been in schools where
buildings were condemned and kids were sitting in classrooms
packed 30 in a room, one inch apart. Are kids like that going
to get the same education as a kid in a suburb going into a
reasonably new school with 18 kids in the classroom? Of course
they are not. They don't have the same chance. They are just
not going to get the same education.
What bothers me is we run two school systems in this
Country. We run school systems for the military on our military
bases and we do a pretty job of it, frankly. And we run schools
for Indian kids through the BIA. And frankly, GAO and other
reports have shown that the amount of disrepair in that school
system is unacceptable.
Mr. Echo Hawk, I would hope you would risk your job coming
here and saying, you know what? The budget that has been
requested is radically insufficient. We have had people do that
and get fired, because I understand the responsibility of
witnesses to support the President's budget. But we are so far
short of the money necessary to protect these kids in these
school systems, we just have to do better.
What I am going to do is I am going to ask the Inspector
General, and by the way, we have had far too little attention
from the Inspector General's Office on Indian issues, let me
say. We have taken a look at the activities in the last eight
and 10 years of what has been done over in the Interior
Department with respect to BIA issues, and I would like to see
much more activity on Indian issues. I will be having a chance
to visit with the Inspector General.
We appreciate your work. We just want more attention to
things that I think are urgent. I am going to be asking both
the GAO and the Inspector General to take a look at this, but I
would also like to ask Mr. Echo Hawk to have the BIA submit to
us a report and tell us if there are 85,000 safety violations
out there that have been identified, two-thirds of them that
have not been corrected, what is the criteria by which you will
decide when to correct things and what things to correct if you
are in fact short of money, as you say? And I believe you are
short of money.
I think this hearing tells me that there are kids whose
lives are in danger because we have safety violations that we
don't judge to be threats to life and limb. That is not
acceptable to me. You might say, well, it is not acceptable to
me either, but give me the money. I say, yes, well, you work
for an Administration that submits a budget.
So let's try to work through this and figure out what our
responsibilities are. I appreciate your coming here, and I
didn't mean to lecture you. I guess I must have meant to
because I did, but it bothers me a lot because I have been to a
lot of Indian schools. And frankly, a lot of these little kids
that walk through these doors are not getting the same
opportunity in life as other kids. And because we run these
schools, I want these kids that walk through these doors to
think and for us to think we are sending them through the
doorways to schools that are some of the best in the world. We
are not. They are some of the worst in the Country in some
I don't want to tarnish all Indian schools because some do
a great job and some are up to snuff, but we are so far short
of the work that needs to be done so that we are proud of these
schools. We still have a lot to do.
So thank you for coming today. We are going to go to the
next panel. I want to be in touch with all four of you and
continue this discussion because it is very, very important.
Thank you very much.
I am going to be offering an amendment on the Floor in just
a moment, and I have asked Senator Udall if he would chair for
the second panel. I will be back in about 30 minutes.
By the way, Mr. Secretary, if you wanted a parting comment,
you are sure welcome to make it. I didn't mean to cut you off.
Did you wish to make a parting comment?
Mr. Echo Hawk. Thank you, Senator Dorgan, just briefly.
Just to follow up to your comment, I did say in my
testimony today that the resources were inadequate. We would
try to do the best job we could. But I recall that when I
appeared before this Committee during my confirmation, I was
asked a question about whether or not I would tell what the
need is and I said I would. And I will continue to do that. I
need to do it more forcefully.
I appreciate your comments today. I am not too worried
about losing my job. I didn't come back here to Washington,
D.C. to get a step in some direction to another career. I am at
the end of my career. I have a secure job waiting for me as a
law professor when I leave, and I will try to be energetic and
forceful in communicating those messages, because what we are
talking about here today is vitally important.
Thank you very much.
The Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I know you have the same
interests at heart that I and Senator Udall do as well. I want
you to succeed in your job. I want you to have more resources
with which to do it and to use these skills in a BIA that works
well and addresses problem.
Thank you very much for being here.
To our next witnesses, I am going to ask my colleague from
New Mexico to introduce you and begin. I will be introducing
the amendment on the floor and be back here hopefully before
you are completed.
Senator Udall, thank you very much for your courtesy of
doing this. If you will introduce the next panel.
Senator Udall. [Presiding.] Thank you very much.
I see Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk is still here. One of
the things, and we will put this in a question in writing, but
my staff has given me to look at the total educational
construction funding here. You look at fiscal year 2004 through
2010, there are large amounts of money being carried over from
year to year, significant amounts of money, millions and
millions of dollars.
So I am wondering with all this money being carried over,
we should be able to fix a lot of the things that are going on.
So it isn't just an issue of additional resources. It is an
issue of using the resources that you have from year to year.
I am going to do everything I can, working with Senator
Dorgan and the rest of the Committee, to see that we get the
message all the way up to the President that he needs to come
forward with a budget that is going to take care of these
situations when it comes to our school children.
So with that, let me welcome the next panel. We have with
us Mr. Quinton Roman Nose, Treasurer, National Indian Education
Association, Washington, D.C. We also have Dr. Anthony
Fairbanks, who I said some nice introductory comments about
earlier, Superintendent, Pueblo of Laguna, Department of
I believe our other witness was unable to make it. Is that
correct? So we will go forward with both of you.
Please, Mr. Roman Nose, go ahead.
STATEMENT OF QUINTON ROMAN NOSE, TREASURER, NATIONAL INDIAN
Mr. Roman Nose. Chairman Udall, Members of the Senate
Committee on Indian Affairs, thank you for this opportunity to
submit testimony on behalf of the National Indian Education
Association about the shocking disparities in the safety of the
Bureau of Indian Education Schools.
Founded in 1970, NIEA is the largest Native American
education organization in the Nation, with a membership of over
3,000 American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian
educators, tribal leaders, school administrators, teachers,
elders, parents and students. NIEA is dedicated to promoting
native education issues and embraces every opportunity to
advocate for the unique educational and culturally related
academic needs of native students.
NIEA advocates for the unique educational and culturally
related academic needs of native students, working to ensure
that the Federal Government upholds its responsibility for the
education of native students through the provision of direct
educational services and facilities that are safe and
This is incumbent upon the trust relationship of the United
States Government with tribal nations. It includes the
responsibility of ensuring educational quality and access.
The environment in which instruction and educational
services are provided is critical to the achievement of our
students and their ability to achieve academically and to be
healthy, successful members of their Native American
communities. However, appalling disparities exist in the levels
of safety, both structural and personal, in the Bureau of
Indian Education-funded schools, creating educational
environments that are a threat to the emotional and physical
well being of Native American students.
In August, 2008, a report issued by the OIG at the
Department of Interior entitled ``Evaluation of Controls to
Prevent Violence at BIE-Operated Education Facilities
documented the lack of laws, presidential orders, or directives
outlining safety measures for Indian schools. Even more
shocking was the fact that grant agreements for Indian schools
do not require a plan for addressing and preventing of campus
In a February, 2010 follow-up report from DOI OIG,
Evaluation Report: School Violence Prevention, an assessment of
safety measures and procedures at 22 Indian Schools revealed
many indicators of potential violence and deficiencies in
school policies aimed at preventing violence, and substantial
deficiencies in preventive and emergency safety procedures,
resulting in schools being dangerously unprepared to prevent
violence and to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Given these long-term and continuing conditions, native
families, communities and tribal governments remain appalled
that these concerns remain unaddressed, while the well being of
Native American students hangs in the balance. From the
experience of our membership in the Native American communities
in Indian Country, critical areas needing immediate action
include funding to repair structural and equipment
deficiencies, appropriate preparation and training of personnel
and staff, implementation or development of policies and
procedures that impact school safety, and increase in useful
collaboration and cooperation among tribal, Federal and local
agencies with a role in ensuring student safety and well being.
Funding to correct disparity and dangerous conditions on
Indian facilities. First and foremost is the issue of
structural deficiencies and lack of funding to address them
remains a paramount concern. Of the 4,495 educational buildings
in the BIE inventory, half are more than 30 years old and more
than 20 percent are older than 50 years; 65 percent of the BIE
school administrators report the physical condition of one or
more school buildings as inadequate.
Although educational conditions have improved dramatically
over the last few years, the deferred maintenance backlog is
still estimated to be over $500 million and increases annually
by $56.5 million. Of the 184 BIE Indian schools, one-third of
the Indian schools are in poor condition and in need of either
replacement or substantial repair.
In addition, lack of consistent functioning electrical
systems, unrepaired gaping holes in security fences, broken or
uninstalled surveillance cameras, and unsecurable doors and
windows directly affect the ability of schools to ensure
student and staff safety.
In 1997, GAO issued a report, Reported Condition and Costs
to Repair Schools Funded by the BIA, that documented an
inventory of repair needs for educational facilities totaling
$754 million. In 2004, the backlog for construction and repair
was reported to have grown to $942 million.
More recently, in March of 2008, the Consensus Building
Institute, with the United States Institute of Environmental
Conflict Resolution, issued a Final Convening Report:
Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Bureau of Indian Affairs-
Funded Schools Facilities Construction. CBI reported in their
findings of the conditions of the schools that security needs
and related funding are major concerns for many schools, aging
or poor design may lead to a substandard educational
environment, and operation and maintenance needs are not
matched by operation and maintenance annual funding.
In May of 2007, the OIG, Department of Interior, issued
BIA/BIE: Schools In Need of Immediate Action, a flash report
that describes the conditions at BIE schools that require
immediate action to protect health and safety of students and
Although the Inspector General visited 13 schools as part
of their investigation, four schools were highlighted in the
flash report. In the report, the Inspector General cited the
deterioration ranging from minor deficiencies such as leaking
roofs to severe deficiencies such as classroom walls buckling
and separating from their foundation.
In his conclusion, the Inspector General stated that
``failure to mitigate these conditions will likely cause injury
or death to children and school employees.'' The flash report
describes the alarming and life-threatening situation at BIA
schools that the Federal Government has created in its failure
to properly maintain the schools. Native children should not
have to risk their lives on a daily basis to access the
fundamental right to an education.
Testifying at the NIEA-sponsored BIA/BIE regional hearing
in the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, Arizona, Hopi Tribal
Chairman Benjamin Nuvamsa stated, ``Our students are at
extremely high risk because of exposure to hazardous materials
in our school buildings. Recently, severe reductions in annual
appropriations for the building operations, maintenance and
repairs, OM&R, program results in the ever-increasing number of
projects placed in the Facilities Maintenance Inventory System,
FMIS. While waiting for funding, our students and staff are
subjected to exposure to hazardous materials. Almost all
schools have asbestos and radon issues which put the students
and staff at risk.''
The purpose of education construction is to permit BIE to
provide structurally sound buildings in which native children
can learn without leaking roofs and peeling paint. It is unjust
to expect our students to succeed academically when we fail to
provide hem with a proper environment to achieve success. The
amount of funding over the past few years has failed to fund
tribes at the rate of inflation, once again exacerbating the
hardships faced by Native American students.
Further, the funding that has been allocated over the past
few years will not keep pace with the tremendous backlog of
Indian schools and facilities in need of replacement or repair.
The BIA's budget has historically been inadequate to meet
the needs of Native Americans and consequently Indian school
needs have multiplied. For 2008, the fiscal year funding level
was $142.94 million. For fiscal year 2007, the funding level
was $204.956 million, and for 2006, the funding level was
Congress and BIA have sought to justify the decrease over
the past few years by stating it wants to finish ongoing
projects. However, NIEA has repeatedly heard from several BIE
schools who have indicated their shovel ready status.
While the Recovery Act did provide $450 million to be
shared among BIA school construction and repairs, detention
facilities, roads, and irrigation projects, this funding has
provided little headway considering the lengthy list of schools
waiting to build and repair their facilities. Therefore, NIEA
previously requested a $150.4 million increase from fiscal year
2010 enacted level of $112.994 million for a total of $263.4
million in fiscal year 2011 for the BIA for Indian school
construction and repair.
The continued deterioration of facilities on Indian land is
not only a Federal responsibility, it has become a liability of
the Federal Government. Old and exceeding their life expectancy
by decades, BIA schools require consistent increases in
facilities maintenance without offsetting decreases in other
programs if 48,000 Indian students are to be educated in
structurally sound schools.
However, in addition to being structurally sound, these
schools must also be structurally safe with adequate funding to
address school safety through the use of perimeter fending to
secure school grounds, surveillance cameras and metal detectors
to deter weapons and on-campus crime, and improved locks and
other physical security measures.
While structural concerns may be the most visible
indicators of school safety, several other areas of critical
concern also need to be swiftly and adequately addressed.
As noted in the 2010 evaluation report, the staff in many
Indian education facilities are unaware of or unable to
implement basic safe plans such as performing lock-downs or
school evaluation drills. High staff turnover, including
principals and other administrators, results in a lack of
institutional knowledge about safety procedures or available
resources used to address and defuse potentially violent
In addition, lack of funding and a consistent plan for the
training of incoming personnel means that most staff members
lack adequate training in areas critical to student well being.
Staff need to be trained to recognize and address indicators of
potential violence, including gangs and suicide prevention, how
to address substance abuse, bullying prevention, and more.
In addition, it is important to have adequate funding to
provide hiring and retention of staff who can provide students
with counseling and therapeutic interventions, while also
helping to train other school staff in appropriate measures for
dealing with potential violent situations.
Previous reports about school conditions and safety
measures indicate that implementation or enforcement of
policies and procedures that would help to ensure students and
staff safety are often not implemented or enforced.
For example, dress codes that prevent the wearing of gang-
related colors in schools may not be enforced with consistency
or consequences. Also, procedures restricting and monitoring
visitor access to schools are critical in maintaining a safe
Senator Udall. Mr. Roman Nose, could you try to wrap and we
will make sure and put your full statement in the record.
Mr. Roman Nose. Okay.
Senator Udall. We also want to give Dr. Fairbanks time.
Mr. Roman Nose. I apologize. I will go to the conclusion. I
am sorry. I didn't look at the time.
I would like to conclude, as an official interviewed in the
August 2008 OIG report stated, ``It is a matter of when and
where, not if, a violent act would happen'' in Indian education
facilities. It is a collective responsibility to do all that we
can to ensure that our children do not have to risk their lives
in deteriorating buildings without adequate supports for their
well-being and personal safety in order to obtain an education.
NIEA thanks the Committee for its hard work and diligence
on behalf of the Native American communities and hopes that
elevated Congressional engagement around the issues of Indian
school safety will promote and ensure much-needed improvements.
With your support, we are hopeful that Indian Country will have
the resources, oversight and assistance it needs to create the
kind of educational environment that our native children
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Roman Nose follows:]
Prepared Statement of Quinton Roman Nose, Treasurer, National Indian
Chairman Dorgan and Members of the Senate Committee on Indian
Affairs, thank you for this opportunity to submit testimony on behalf
of the National Indian Education Association about the shocking
disparity in the safety of Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.
Founded in 1970, NIEA is the largest Native education organization
in the nation with a membership of over 3,000 American Indian, Alaska
Native and Native Hawaiian educators, tribal leaders, school
administrators, teachers, elders, parents, and students. NIEA is
dedicated to promoting Native education issues and embraces every
opportunity to advocate for the unique educational and culturally-
related academic needs of Native students.
NIEA advocates for the unique educational and culturally related
academic needs of Native students, working to ensure that the Federal
Government upholds its responsibility for the education of Native
students through the provision of direct educational services and
facilities that are safe and structurally sound. This is incumbent upon
the trust relationship of the United States government with tribal
nations and includes the responsibility of ensuring educational quality
and access. The environment in which instruction and educational
services are provided is critical to the achievement of our students
and their ability to achieve academically and to be healthy, successful
members of their communities.
However, appalling disparities exist in the levels of safety, both
structural and personal, in Bureau of Indian Education funded schools,
creating educational environments that are a threat to the emotional
and physical well-being of Native students.
An August 2008 report issued by the Office of the Inspector General
(OIG), Department of the Interior (DOI) titled Evaluation of Controls
to Prevent Violence at Bureau of Indian Education Operated Education
Facilities documented the lack of ``laws, presidential orders, or
directives outlining safety measures for Indian Schools.'' \1\ Even
more shocking was the fact that grant agreements for Indian schools do
not require a plan for addressing and preventing of campus violence.
\1\ The Office of the Inspector General, Department of the Interior
Evaluation of Controls to Prevent Violence at Bureau of Indian
Education Operated Education Facilities (August, 2008), p. 7.
In a February 2010 follow up report from the DOI OIG, Evaluation
Report: School Violence Prevention, an assessment of safety measures
and procedures at 22 Indian schools ``revealed many indicators of
potential violence, deficiencies in school policies aimed at preventing
violence, and substantial deficiencies in preventative and emergency
safety procedures resulting in schools being dangerously unprepared to
prevent violence and ensure the safety of students and staff.'' \2\
\2\ The Office of the Inspector General, Department of the Interior
Evaluation Report: School Violence Prevention (February, 2010), p. 2.
Given these long term and continuing conditions, Native families,
communities, and tribal governments remain appalled that these concerns
remain unaddressed while the well-being of Native students hangs in the
balance. From the experiences of our membership and Native communities
in Indian Country, critical areas needing immediate action include
funding to repair and correct structural or equipment deficiencies,
appropriate preparation and training of personnel and staff,
implementation or development of policies and procedures that impact
school safety, and increased and useful collaboration and cooperation
among tribal, federal, and local agencies with a role in ensuring
student safety and well-being
Funding to Correct the Disrepair and Dangerous Conditions of Indian
First and foremost is the issue of structural deficiencies and the
lack of funding to address them remain of paramount concern. Of the
4,495 education buildings in the BIE inventory, half are more than 30
years old and more than twenty percent (20 percent) are older than
fifty years. Sixty-five percent (65 percent) of BIE school
administrators report the physical condition of one or more school
buildings as inadequate. Although education construction has improved
dramatically over the last few years, the deferred maintenance backlog
is still estimated to be over $500 million and increases annually by
$56.5 million. Of the 184 BIE Indian schools, one-third of Indian
schools are in poor condition and in need of either replacement or
substantial repair. In addition, lack of consistently functioning
electrical systems, unrepaired gaping holes in security fences, broken
or uninstalled surveillance cameras, and unsecurable doors and windows
directly affect the ability of schools to ensure student and staff
In 1997, GAO issued a report, Reported Condition and Costs to
Repair Schools Funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that documented
an inventory of repair needs for education facilities totaling $754
million. In 2004 the backlog for construction and repair was reported
to have grown to $942 million. More recently, in March of 2008, the
Consensus Building Institute (CBI) with the U.S. Institute for
Environmental Conflict Resolution issued a Final Convening Report:
Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Bureau of Indian Affairs-Funded
Schools Facilities Construction. CBI reported in their findings of the
conditions of the schools that ``security needs and related funding are
major sources of concern for many schools,'' ``aging or poor design may
lead to a substandard educational environment,'' ``operation and
maintenance needs are not matched by operation and maintenance annual
\3\ The Consensus Building Institute with the U.S. Institute for
Environmental Conflict Resolution (March 5, 2008). Final Convening
Report: Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Bureau of Indian Affairs-
Funded School Facilities Construction, pp. 16-18.
In May of 2007, the Office of the Inspector General, Department of
Interior, issued Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian
Education: Schools in Need of Immediate Action, a flash report that
describes the conditions at BIE schools that require ``immediate action
to protect the health and safety of students and faculty.'' Although
the Inspector General visited thirteen schools as part of their
investigation, four schools were highlighted in the flash report--
Chinle Boarding School, Shonto Preparatory School, Keams Canyon School,
and the Kayenta Boarding School. In the report, the Inspector General
cites deterioration ranging from ``minor deficiencies such as leaking
roofs to severe deficiencies such as classroom walls buckling and
separating from their foundation.'' In his conclusion, the Inspector
General states that the ``failure to mitigate these conditions will
likely cause injury or death to children and school employees.'' This
flash report describes the alarming and life-threatening situation at
BIE schools that the Federal Government has created in its failure to
properly maintain these schools. Native children should not have to
risk their lives on a daily basis to access their fundamental right to
Testifying at the NIEA-sponsored BIA/BIE regional hearing in Navajo
Nation/Window Rock, AZ, Hopi Tribal Chairman, Benjamin Nuvamsa stated,
``our students are at extremely high risk because of exposure to
hazardous materials in our school facilities. [Recently] severe
reductions in annual appropriations for the building Operations,
Maintenance and Repairs (OM&R) program results in the ever-increasing
number of projects placed in the Facilities Maintenance Inventory
System (FMIS). While waiting for funding, our students and staff are
subjected to exposure to hazardous materials. Almost all schools have
asbestos and radon issues which put the students and staff at risk.''
\4\ Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education:
Hearings before the National Indian Education Association, Widow Rock,
AZ (August 21, 2008) (testimony of Benjamin Nuvamsa, Hopi Tribal
The purpose of education construction is to permit BIE to provide
structurally sound buildings in which Native children can learn without
leaking roofs and peeling paint. It is unjust to expect our students to
succeed academically when we fail to provide them with a proper
environment to achieve success. The amount of funding over the past few
years has failed to fund tribes at the rate of inflation, once again
exacerbating the hardships faced by Native American students. Further,
the funding that has been allocated over the past few years will not
keep pace with the tremendous backlog of Indian schools and facilities
in need of replacement or repair.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)'s budget has historically been
inadequate to meet the needs of Native Americans and, consequently,
Indian school needs have multiplied. For FY 2008, the funding level was
$142.94 million, for FY 2007, the funding level was $204.956 million;
and, for FY 2006, the funding level was $206.787 million. Congress and
the BIA has sought to justify the decrease over the past few years by
stating that it wants to finish ongoing projects, however NIEA has
repeatedly heard from several BIE schools who have indicated their
``shovel ready'' status. While the Recovery Act did provide $450
million to be shared among BIA school construction and repairs,
detention facilities, roads, and irrigation projects, this funding has
provided little headway considering the lengthy list of schools waiting
to build and repair their facilities. Therefore, NIEA previously
requested a $150.4 million increase from the FY 2010 enacted level of
$112.994 million for a total of $263.4 million in FY 2011 to the BIA
for Indian school construction and repair.
The continued deterioration of facilities on Indian land is not
only a federal responsibility; it has become a liability of the Federal
Government. Old and exceeding their life expectancy by decades, BIA
schools require consistent increases in facilities maintenance without
offsetting decreases in other programs, if 48,000 Indian students are
to be educated in structurally sound schools. However, it addition to
being structurally sound, these schools must also be structurally safe.
With adequate funding to address school safety through the use of
perimeter fencing to secure school grounds, surveillance cameras and
metals detectors to deter weapons and on campus crime, and improved
locks and other physical security measures.
While structural concerns may be the most visible indicators of
school safety, several other areas of critical concern also need to be
swiftly and adequately addressed.
As noted in the February 2010 evaluation report, the staff in many
Indian education facilities are unaware of or unable to implement basic
safe plans such as performing lock down or school evaluation drills.
High staff turnover, including principals and other administrators,
results in a lack of institutional knowledge about safety procedures or
available resources used to address and defuse potentially violent
situations. In addition, lack of funding and a consistent plan for the
training of incoming personnel means that most staff members lack
adequate training areas critical to student well-being. Staff need to
be trained to recognize and address indicators of potential violence,
including gang and suicide prevention, how to address substance abuse,
bullying prevention, and more. In addition, it is important to have
adequate funding to support the hiring and retention of staff who can
provide students with counseling and therapeutic interventions while
also helping to train other school staff in appropriate measures for
dealing with potential violent situations.
Policies and Procedures
Previous reports about school conditions and safety measures
indicate that implementation or enforcement of policies and procedures
that would help to ensure students and staff safety are often not
implemented or enforced. For example, dress codes that prevent the
wearing of gang related colors in schools may be not be enforced with
consistency or consequences. Also, procedures restricting and
monitoring visitor access to schools are critical in maintaining a safe
school environment. While this may be heavily dependent on the quality
of the physical building and its entrances, exits, locks, and other
devices, a highly quality locking door is only as useful when it gets
locked. According to both the 2008 and the 2010 OIG reports, the
evaluators found multiple doors open or unlocked during the school day.
Critical procedures also include the need to standardize and improve
the NASIS (Native American Student Information System) and the FMIS
(Facility Management System) systems. School personnel report
struggling to use either system due to multiple procedural obstacles,
including lack of consistent procedures for entering data and no
ability to use the information for monitoring violent incidents or to
analyze for predicting or identifying a specific trend or issue for
intervention as is the case with NASIS. Or school personnel have very
limited access and ability to enter or share data, including school
facility managers being unable to enter basic safety deficiencies of
school facilities with respect to the FMIS. \5\ And related to this is
a need for oversight and support to ensure that annual safety
inspections are completed and verified--with deficiencies addressed
before the next safety inspection is due. Procedures also need to
address and rectify policies that are counterproductive and outdated.
For example, facilities are currently only reimbursed 49 cents on the
dollar for scheduled maintenance, making it next to financially
impossible to make much needed improvements.
\5\ Currently only safety directors can enter data into the FMIS
system and many are not based onsite at school facilities.
Coordination and Collaboration
Currently multiple agencies, including tribal, BIE, Health and
Human Services (HHS), Indian Health Services (HIS), state and local
laws enforcement and social services all assume different roles and
responsibilities for students and their families. A lack of
coordination and collaboration among the various agencies has resulted
in little to no service provision for Native students in schools, or
services not being rendered in a timely manner. Therefore, having
requirements for collaboration built into funding sources or as part of
mandatory programmatic objectives would help overcome jurisdictional
conflicts and provide incentives for collaboration. Also, there is a
critical need for transparent and strong leadership by BIE in helping
schools and tribes to address safety concerns through the use of
workable safety plans, or even the implementation of a general BIE
safety plan. Tribal communities are in the best position to advise and
help develop culturally relevant and appropriate methods for addressing
issues like bullying prevention, substance abuse prevention, anti-gang
programming, and suicide prevention for their Native students.
Therefore, BIE also needs to firmly support the role of tribes as the
best resource for knowledge about culturally relevant interventions,
such as peace keeping circles, that provide students and schools with
culturally appropriate tools and models for behavior and conflict
resolution. Finally, increased transparency on the part of BIE is a
necessary component in correcting safety concerns in BIE funded
schools. Plans for how to address the concerns raised in recent OIG
reports should be publicly shared with a request for feedback and input
from tribes and Native communities. Also, accurate lists and plans for
addressing structural deficiencies and distribution of resources to
schools is important for school planning and prioritizing of even minor
repairs or safety equipment purchases.
As an official interviewed in the August 2008 OIG report stated, it
is ``a matter of `when and where'--not `if'--a violent act would
happen'' in Indian education facilities. \6\ It is a collective
responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that our children do not
have to risk their lives in deteriorating buildings without adequate
supports for their wellbeing and personal safety in order to obtain an
education. NIEA thanks the Committee for its hard work and diligence on
behalf of Native communities and hopes that elevated congressional
engagement around the issue of Indian school safety will help promote
and ensure much needed improvements. With your support, we are hopeful
that Indian Country will have the resources, oversight, and assistance
it needs to create the kind of educational environment that Native
\6\ The Office of the Inspector General, Department of the Interior
Evaluation of Controls to Prevent Violence at Bureau of Indian
Education Operated Education Facilities (August, 2008), p. 1.
Senator Udall. Thank you very much.
Please, Dr. Fairbanks, go ahead.
STATEMENT OF DR. ANTHONY FAIRBANKS, SUPERINTENDENT, PUEBLO OF
LAGUNA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Dr. Fairbanks. Good morning, Chairman Udall and Members of
the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. I bring
greetings from the Pueblo of Laguna, Governor John Antonio and
the Laguna Pueblo Council, Laguna Department of Education Board
Members and the staff and students to relate our story.
Thank you very much for allowing me to be here today. It is
quite an honor.
Education is one of the top priorities for the Pueblo of
Laguna and improving the education for the students of Laguna,
New Mexico is an important ongoing effort. Of course, safety
for our students is our first and foremost consideration.
Students must have a safe learning environment to be
The intent of my testimony is two-fold: one, to raise
awareness of the serious safety concerns of the Laguna
Elementary School; two, to advocate the need for all Bureau of
Indian Education Schools to be safe learning environments.
Laguna schools struggle with the same issues other Bureau
of Indian Education schools across the United States deal with
on a regular basis: deteriorating infrastructure, buildings
that are beyond their life expectancy, and unsecured open
campuses, none of which can be remedied with the current
limited financial resources available for improving or building
For example, in the fall of 2007, we were notified to close
the Laguna Elementary School due to an assessment that revealed
several cracks throughout the gymnasium and several classroom
walls. After additional investigations, we were notified that
our students and staff were safe, barring a significant seismic
event or a microburst wind gust.
Two years later, a seismic event did occur just a few miles
away from our school. Thankfully, there were no injuries from
the 3.0 earthquake. However, it was quite concerning since the
study indicated our school barring a significant seismic event,
and warrants the need for a new school.
Our internal assessments revealed that the school's
structural design developed in the 1960s does not sufficiently
safeguard against potential violence. There are no centralized
entries or exit points due to the open parameters of the
The Laguna Elementary School currently has 41 backlogged
deficiencies. The current cost to repair and/or replace these
deficiencies is over $12 million.
Does Indian school safety get a passing grade? I will
answer this question using the common language of our adequate
yearly progress report, AYP standards, and my assessment is
that we are at beginning steps. I believe we are making
progress, but continue to have a long way to go.
I sincerely thank Chairman Dorgan and members of the United
States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for your time and
interest with this very important matter. A special thanks and
appreciation is extended to New Mexico Senator Udall for his
continued support regarding these issues.
I also appreciate Senator Franken's recognition of the Red
Lake, Minnesota high school students that were killed five
years ago. Seven of those students were my former students,
actually, when I was in Red Lake as a football coach and
principal of an elementary school. The unarmed security guard,
Derrick Brun, was my cousin. So I appreciate Senator Franken's
interest and support to help advocate for safe school
I also want to thank Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk, Mr.
Bart Stevens and Mr. Jack Rever. I know first-hand of their
reputable leadership and I appreciate their sincere efforts
I respectfully urge the United States Senate Committee on
Indian Affairs to advocate for increased allocations of
facility repair and new school construction funds to meet the
needs of all Bureau of Indian Education schools.
In addition to more funds, there is room for improvement
within the Bureau's facilities management information system.
More consistent, proactive procedures addressing structural
concerns in a timely fashion will allow for increased
All children are entitled to have a safe and secure
learning environment. With your continued support and
assistance, we can make this much-needed initiative a reality.
If there is anything the Pueblo of Laguna or I can do to assist
your efforts in addressing these issues, please feel free to
Thank you very much and God bless.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Fairbanks follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. Anthony Fairbanks, Superintendent, Pueblo of
Laguna Department of Education
Senator Udall. Thank you, and thanks to both of you.
Dr. Fairbanks, in your testimony you describe a safety
first model where you need to use the school's operating funds
to fix the safety deficiencies at the schools to ensure that
students and staff are safe. Even though you later seek
reimbursement for those expenses, you say that this process
detracts from your ability to provide quality academic
Can you describe the ways that this safety first method of
ensuring student safety affects the academic services at your
Dr. Fairbanks. Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman. The purpose of our
role within the leadership in Laguna is that we do take safety
very seriously. However, we are very limited with facility
construction or maintenance funds. We do not receive enough in
order to meet all the needs in safety concerns of our school.
As I stated within my testimony, we have 41 deficiencies, well
over $12 million.
But if there is anything that we can do in order to fund an
appropriate safety measure, we will do that. However, those
funds need to come out of our general fund or our
administrative funds, and that in turn does detract from our
academic services that we are able to invest in also. So it is
a balancing act and of course it is a matter of staying within
our appropriated budgets.
Senator Udall. And clearly you want to give the top
academic experience to your students, but because of these
safety issues you are having to pull money away from that
academic side. And that is obviously unacceptable.
You describe the current system as reactive, rather than
proactive. What recommendations do you have for making the
system more proactive?
Dr. Fairbanks. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I believe
the system needs to be streamlined. And again, if we can plan
and anticipate any potential problems or hazards to our
students throughout the system itself I think would be very
appropriate in addressing all of these concerns, again being
proactive rather than reactive.
Senator Udall. Thank you.
Mr. Roman Nose, I agree with you that in order to address
many of the safety issues related to gangs, to violence,
bullying and substance abuse we need more involvement from
tribal communities. In what ways do you think tribal
communities and the schools could partner to address some of
the safety issues related to violence within their communities?
Mr. Roman Nose. I think there are several ways. One that
come to mind as a school board member of Riverside Indian
School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, I would like to see more training
with school board members and make this information more
available to the public and to parents. It is a very difficult
system to get information to parents, especially if you reside
in a residential school. But I think more outreach to parents
and tribal officials, school board members needs to be in
These are very complicated issues. I think the BIA needs
tribal input in all areas.
Senator Udall. Thank you.
Before I close the hearing, I want to just make two
comments. As Chairman Dorgan said, the reporting on these
issues out in New Mexico and in other places I think has been
very helpful in terms of moving us forward, exposing the
problems that are out there, the deficiencies, the safety
issues, and helping all of us address these and move down the
And secondly, I want to echo what Secretary Echo Hawk said.
It seems to me the key, I mean both of these witnesses here and
the previous witnesses were focusing on education, but the real
key is in healthy families in these native communities. And we
have to get employment into these communities. If you have
communities, which we do on the Navajo Reservation, with
unemployment at 50 percent or in some other pueblo communities
higher than that, 60 percent and 70 percent unemployment, I
don't see how you can have stable families.
And so one of the policy efforts has to be how do we get
capital, how do we get investment how do we get economic
development within these native communities so that people in
these communities can get a good job and support their
families. It seems to me the core of this in terms of healthy
families is people being able to get a job.
We recently had a hearing and Chairman Dorgan brought up
one of Senator Inouye's bills that talked about setting up a
bank or an organization to push capital and investment into
native communities. I think that is part of this issue also
that we need to address.
So with that, I thank both of the witnesses for being here.
Secretary Echo Hawk, thank you for staying over and hearing
these witnesses. You know your message is heard when the
Secretary stays here and we appreciate your support staff being
With that, I will adjourn the hearing. The hearing is
[Whereupon, at 11:10 a.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Prepared Statement of Faye BlueEyes, Program Director, Dzilth-Na-O-
Dith-Hle Community Grant School, Navajo Nation
Prepared Statement of Charles L. Jaynes, Former Chief of Safety and
Risk Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs
I wish to thank the Committee for the opportunity to
testify on Indian school safety. For twenty-six years, I had
the privilege to serve as Chief of Safety and Risk Management
for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During my tenure at BIA we
were able to effect many changes to enhance the safety of
Indian children in schools. The first of those major
accomplishments was to adopt national consensus building safety
codes for all schools where none had existed previously.
Another major step was to develop and implement a policy
requiring that all new school construction include fire
protection automatic sprinkler systems. The fire protection
sprinkler requirement was a ground breaking accomplishment.
Today that requirement is more stringent than requirements for
public schools nation-wide.
Education in Indian Country presents many challenges that
are not faced by most public schools in America. Unlike public
schools, a majority Indian schools are located in remote
reservation areas that are not served by conventional
infrastructure. Most Indian communities lack professional fire
protection, emergency medical services and other community
based services that are available to most American communities.
This means that many Indian communities have no mutual aid from
surrounding jurisdictions and may be from tens of minutes to an
hour away from receiving emergency assistance. The remoteness
factor causes a significant elevation in the risk assessment
for Indian children attending reservation schools.
There will be nothing in my testimony today that is new or
unknown to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Over the past twenty
or so years, there have been numerous reports by the Department
of the Interior Inspector General citing deficiencies in Indian
school safety. Additionally, there are internal reports issued
by BIA task groups, the Department of the Interior Safety
Office, and the BIA Division of Safety and Risk Management. All
of these reports should be available to the Committee for your
review and consideration from the Department of the Interior
and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
I will attempt to group items in my testimony in order of
potential risk posed by deficiencies in Indian schools with the
highest risk being listed first. I hope that the following
testimony will be helpful to the committee and welcome the
opportunity to answer any questions that you may have.
Existing reports indicate that as much as 40% of fire alarm
systems in Indian schools are not at full operational
capability. This calls into question whether school children
could be evacuated in the case of an emergency on any given
Many Indian schools are not being inspected for safety on
an annual basis and abatement of safety hazards is not being
accomplished as required in Federal Regulations. This failure
means that the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of
Indian Education have incomplete data to identify the risks for
children attending Indian schools. No one in government is held
accountable for accomplishing the required inspections and
abatement of hazards in Indian schools.
Funding is not being requested by government agencies to
correct the known safety and health deficiencies in Indian
schools and as I previously stated there are deficiencies
existing in schools which are not known due to the lack of
There is and has been a general statement of concern for
the safety and health of children attending Indian schools by
the responsible government agencies. However, there has been a
lack of action by those same agencies to assure that safe and
healthful conditions are present in Indian schools.
Below is a list that details four major areas which
contribute hazards affecting the safety and health of children
attending Indian schools.
Fire Alarm Systems
At any given time up to 40% of fire alarm systems in Indian
schools are either inoperative or experience some form of
system failure. A study conducted by the BIA's Division of
Safety and Risk Management found that many of the failed alarm
systems were antiquated and that parts, components and service
were no longer available for the dated systems. In addition,
the study found that newer systems were overly complex and
could not be maintained by the local maintenance staff at
school locations. The national codes require that a functioning
manual fire alarm system be provided in all education
occupancies and an automatic detection system be provided in
residential occupancies such as dormitories. With the advent of
microprocessors and advanced electronics many manufacturers
have produced very complicated fire alarm systems In addition
to requiring a high level of technical expertise for
maintenance these new systems are very costly. The BIA spends
from $20,000 to $40,000 on average for fire alarm systems in
new construction. These systems provide addressable access for
system diagnostics, immediate notification to emergency
services and other enhancements to improve reliability and
rapid response by fire, EMS and public safety organizations.
These systems serve an important function if the facility is
located in Arlington, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona or Rapid City,
South Dakota because those communities have the available
infrastructure to respond. I have however questioned the wisdom
of purchasing such systems where the alarm system transmits a
signal to a non-existent fire department. The addressable
diagnostic function is of little value to maintenance personnel
who lack an understanding of microprocessor technology and have
not had sufficient training to utilize the systems diagnostic
functions. These issues are compounded when an Indian school is
a boarding facility. The BIA is one of few, if not the only
education system that boards elementary age school children.
Elementary age children are very difficult to arouse from sleep
and once awake, they tend to be confused and disoriented. Early
detection of smoke and fire is an essential life saving
function for small children.
My assessment of the value of fire alarm systems in Indian
schools has always led me to the conclusion that the system
should provide immediate notification of an emergency to the
staff and students of schools so that they could evacuate the
facility and get to a point of safety without delay. A system
costing $40,000 can not accomplish this task if it is not
functioning properly and can not be maintained. Most all
manufacturers of fire alarm systems offer a simple alarm system
that meets code requirements. These simple systems cost in the
range of $5000 to $10,000 and are easily maintained with a
minimum amount for training for local personnel. The important
consideration is that systems must be reliable, for a system
that is inoperable provides a sense of false security to the
staff and students.
Emphasis On Safety
I have always disliked the term ``Risk Management'' when it
applies to the safety of children in schools. I have always
believed that a policy of eliminating risk was the proper
philosophy. Most organizations with an effective safety program
have adopted this view of risk. Placing the safety function at
an organizational level away from competing or conflicting
functions is central to having an effective safety program. The
commonly used phrase ``Safety First'' embodies this view.
Throughout the 1990's the BIA safety organization reported to
the Director of Administration. An internal task force report
by BIA found that this was the proper placement of the
function. That same report warned that placing the safety
function under facility management, environmental quality or
personnel management could diminish the effectiveness of safety
due to conflicting or competing interests. In or about 2005,
the Bureau underwent a reorganization that placed safety within
a new office titled `` Office of Facility Management,
Environmental and Cultural Affairs''. Note that there was no
mention of safety in the organizations title. This action was
interpreted by many that safety was not a priority with BIA.
The basic OSHA Act requires that the safety program be placed
high enough in an organization to assure that proper staffing
and other resources are available to effectively secure the
proper level of safety for employees and the public. In the
case of the Federal government, the regulations (see 29 CRF
1960) state that the safety program should be at the level of
Assistant Secretary. When the safety function is a priority to
executive management, the rest of the organization tends to
place more emphasis on operating safely and eliminating risk.
The BIA has developed a comprehensive data system to track
safety inspection findings, monitor abatement of safety hazards
and provide a mechanism to fund correction of deficiencies. The
system is a major achievement and is the most comprehensive
system I have seen in thirty plus years of professional safety
work. The system however, can not perform the inspections,
develop abatement plans and request funds. These functions
require human effort. Since 1995, the level of resources
available for safety have diminished at a steady pace. Safety
positions at the headquarters level and at the regional office
have been vacant for years. Additionally, officials in charge
of schools have not been held accountable for developing safety
abatement plans. This means that a system costing millions of
dollars is ineffective because there is no input at some
locations and where deficiencies are identified, abatement
plans are not developed and entered to address correction of
the identified hazards. Officials at all levels of the
organization should be held accountable if safety hazards are
to be eliminated.
Elaborate School Designs
Schools have one simple function; to educate youth in an
effective manner. Indian schools have fallen victim to a trend
being faced by school construction nation-wide. Many times,
school designs become a show place for architectural talent.
BIA has built schools that are shaped like buffalo, eagle wings
and a variety of other designs. Many of these designs
incorporate building systems that are difficult to maintain and
are very costly. Some of these design features include hallways
configured in an elliptical arc or similar unusual
configuration. Roof designs which do not contribute to the
function of the building but are purely aesthetic are common.
These various design features can double the initial
construction costs of schools but more importantly make the
facility very difficult to maintain. These maintenance issues
often contribute safety hazards once the schools come online.
Water leaking from roofs into electrical and fire alarm systems
is a common observation cited in safety reports. Heating,
ventilation and airconditioning systems in complex designs are
harder to maintain which effects fire alarm operation.
Design firms have a vested interested in elaborate designs.
The design fees collected (usually 6%) are based upon the cost
estimate for construction. Therefore, the more a school costs
to build, the more money the design firm collects. Indian
tribes may wait years for their school project to be funded for
construction and subsequently they are frequently taken
advantage of by project designers. Not only does this method
increase the initial cost of a school, but it also negatively
impacts the maintenance of the facility and subsequently
increases the safety issues once the facility is occupied and
used. A simple, functional design is cost effective, easy to
maintain and mitigates risk by its very nature.
School Site Selection
A large number of Indian schools are located within the
Southwestern United States. The Southwest region of the country
is noted for its complex geology. The geology and soil
conditions are very important when selecting a building site
for schools. During the last twenty or thirty years Indian
Schools have been plagued by structural issues relating to
differential settlement of the structures. This settlement is
demonstrated by cracks in walls, foundation failure. The BIA
has spent millions of dollars addressing structural distress in
Indian schools. These issues have been cited in numerous
Inspector General Reports and yet the Bureau continues to build
schools in areas where the geology is known to be unstable. A
recent example of this involves the new Ft. Wingate High
School. This project was build very close to the site of the
existing high school. The school site is located on an unstable
geologic formation that is over one hundred feet deep. The old
Ft. Wingate high School experienced constant structural
distress over its life since the 1960s and the Bureau spent
significant resources trying to stabilize that structure. The
original buildings were built on concrete piers drilled some
forty feet deep. The new high school is built on the same basic
geologic formation and engineered fill of several feet was
provided to offer a stabilized base for the structure. This
fill material was placed upon an unstable geologic formation
some hundred feet thick. There was documentation raising the
geologic issues before the new school was built but the
construction went forward. As time progresses, one can expect
that the new school will experience safety problems related to
differential settlement. Similar problems are well documented
in BIA files for Sanostee School, Chinle Boarding School, Alamo
Community School and many others.
School site selection should involve not only traditional
soils analysis but a stratigraphic review by a qualified
geologist to assure that a site is suitable for school
construction. This simple action could result in elimination of
structural hazards as well as significant costs savings. In
locations where unstable soils and questionable geology are
unavoidable, there are known techniques to combat the effects
of differential settlement. While these techniques may have a
large front end cost, they are considered economical over the
life span of a building.
Prepared Statement of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Councilman Milton Brown Otter: ``Indian and non-Indian--The
schools are the backbone of ALL communities because without the
schools there would be NO community.''
Thank you for addressing the responsibility for the safety
of our students in Tribal Grant Schools. Our Reservation spans
across North and South Dakota encompassing 2.3 million acres,
comparable to the size of the state of Connecticut. We have
nine schools within the boundaries of our reservation; five
public schools, one private school, and three tribal grant
schools. Our largest Tribal Grant School is the Standing Rock
Community School located in Fort Yates, North Dakota, serves
grades Kindergarten to twelve with an enrollment of 863. The
next largest grant school is the Sitting Bull School located in
Little Eagle, South Dakota, serves grades Kindergarten to eight
with an enrollment of 85. Our smallest grant school is the Rock
Creek Grant School located in Bullhead, South Dakota, serves
Kindergarten to eight with an enrollment of 65.
In this testimony we will address the critical safety needs
of these three schools in three areas, (1) student safety with
regards to violence, facility safety with regards to (2)
physical security and (3) maintenance and repair. We will also
address the ``breaks'' in the processes, both BIE and Grant
School, that contribute to many of these issues being
Student Safety with Regards to Violence
For Sitting Bull School and Rock Creek Grant School the
internal violence takes on a form that many of us ``cringe'' at
even the thought of but for these children, suicide is a
reality. In the last school year only four behavioral incidents
were reported in Native American Student Information System
(NASIS) and that is not uncommon or uncharacteristically low.
However one of these schools suffered the loss of one child
taking his life and 5 attempts by others. These are violent
acts, self inflicted by our students and need to be addressed.
Where is the safety of the children from themselves being
addressed? Break in Process.
For the Standing Rock Community School the internal
negative behavioral problems, data wise, outweigh the external,
not to say the external does not contribute or is not the
direct cause of the internal negative behavior. Some statistics
from NASIS. . .
Standing Rock High School which services grades 9 through
12 had 356 Negative Behavioral Reports in 2009-2010:
22 were Drug or Alcohol related.
88 directly or indirectly involved violence.
Standing Rock Middle School which services grades 6 through
8 had 956 Negative Behavioral Reports in 2009-2010:
22 were Drug or Alcohol related.
124 directly or indirectly involved violence.
Standing Rock Elementary School, grades Kindergarten
through 8 had 291 Negative Behavioral Reports in 2009-2010:
4 were Tobacco related.
160 directly or indirectly involved violence.
Recommendations are being made in this testimony to address
the key safety issues with regards to violence by:
Even non-violent and/or drug related negative
behavioral incidents affect the learning of others.
Adequate support staff to address and deter all
negative behavior is needed
A counselor for each school
Adequate Security ex. Resource Officer for
Adequate hall monitors
There is a need to construct a student dormitory
(student housing) on the Standing Rock Reservation. The
Standing Rock Community School has identified this as a
need to house homeless students and to serve students
due to the family dysfunction and social conditions.
An MOA or MOU documenting and committing
collaboration and coordination of BIA Police and BIE
Schools services to assure safe and protected school
Facility Safety with Regards to Physical Security
Security of School Grounds and Police Response Time to External Attacks
Break-ins on school grounds have been emotionally crushing
and costly occurrences at our grant schools. This last school
year there were two break-ins at Sitting Bull School that
resulted in over $26,000 worth of damage. Currently, Sitting
Bull School has no surveillance cameras or security system in
place. Standing Rock and Rock Creek do have surveillance
cameras however they are outdated inadequate in number. As a
result our schools are still very vulnerable. There is
potential for greater harm to be done. Break in Process.
There was a violent incident at Sitting Bull School. The
authorities were called, immediate action was needed, Police
did not arrive until the next day. The Standing Rock Sioux
Reservation is protected by BIA police--BIE and BIA are
entities of the Department of Interior. Break in Process.
Recommendations for Facility Safety with Regards to Physical Security
Our three tribal grant schools all need security
fences throughout school grounds that includes a gate
system for entrance of school grounds.
Sitting Bull School needs locking exterior windows
throughout school--they currently have to use a piece
of wood to lock the windows in every classroom and
All three schools need new surveillance and security
An MOA or MOU documenting and committing
collaboration and coordination of BIA Police and BIE
Schools services to assure safe and protected school
There is a need to construct a student dormitory
(student housing) on the Standing Rock Reservation. The
Standing Rock Community School has identified this as a
need to house homeless students and to serve students
due to the family dysfunction and social conditions.
Facility Safety with Regards to Maintenance and Repair
There are deficiencies at our three grant schools. This
testimony references reports including ``Notice of Unsafe and
Unhealthful Working Conditions Reports; Backlog Deficiency
Reports'' and ``Unofficial lists'' provided by the
administration of the schools. The lists go on and on and have
gone on and on for years. Rock Creek and Standing Rock could
very well qualify as providing the DEFINITION of the BIE
``band-aid'' approach to facilities problems. The Rock Creek
Grant School must be replaced. The original school was built in
1912 with additions and renovations made throughout the years
to accommodate facilities deficiencies and student growth. The
original building serves as the `hub' of the school with
additions of classrooms and a multi-purpose room serving as the
kitchen, dining area and gym. There are also two portable
classrooms that house the kindergarten and first grade students
and the culture program. As the Bureau of Indian Affairs does
not have a school construction priority list, what is the
process for the school to access funding for building a new
For Standing Rock, who is in the middle of a MAJOR
construction overhaul, the amount of time and resources taken
to address the deficiencies reported in the annual ``Notice of
Unsafe and Unhealthful Working Conditions Reports'' and
``Backlog Deficiency Reports,'' they could have built a new
school. The funding for the overhaul however did not come from
BIE, though the recommendations and required improvements did.
The construction was funded by 2009 American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. Without the ARRA funds, where
would the funding have come from?
Sitting Bull School is a perfect example of not having
CATASTROPHIC repairs and needs in terms of crumbling buildings,
but a laundry list of minor problems just waiting to explode:
Boiler Problems--Well documented, a replacement
boiler was needed 5 years ago. All of which is eligible
for emergency funding but the school has not received.
The school does not have the money for a replacement.
The boiler went out twice this last year.
Sewer backups throughout the year, system needs to
Operating on one Boiler throughout the year, advised
BIE but no actions have been taken to date. Must be
repaired or replaced.
Fire system/sprinklers, school system is very old,
need updated system installed. Water Pull Stations are
very old, need upgrading.
Water Heater system is very old and needs upgrading.
Kitchen Appliances are very old.
Sprinkler system for stoves is very old, the
ventilation system is dangerous, all need upgrading or
replacement in these areas.
Gym lights are very old and can fall anytime now
would injure anyone who is standing underneath them if
Bleachers in gym are very old and falling apart,
this situation presents a danger to our students.
Playground equipment is very old which makes them a
hazard for our students, some equipment is still being
used from the old school from the 60's and 70's.
Propane tank regulators, these needs to be upgraded
by 2012, safety hazard for whole school system.
School Space--The school was awarded a housing unit
(double wide) to accommodate overcrowding. Although
numerous attempts have been made to get the unit--all
is documented. The school was awarded the unit 4 to 5
years ago but has not received it to date.
On annual basis the Office of Facility Management, Great
Plains Regional Office, completes safety inspections and the
Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions Reports
(Safety Reports). There are numerous deficiencies cited. In
2008, the Rock Creek Grant School had 57 deficiencies, the
Sitting Bull School had 50 deficiencies, and the Standing Rock
Community School had 256 deficiencies. In the most recent
safety inspection for the Standing Rock Schools completed in
July of 2009, there were 230 items identified that keyed the
school buildings unsafe and violating safety codes. Forty Three
percent of the items were ``Repeats'' meaning they were
identified last year. Forty-eight percent were identified as
Serious Code and Law Violations and ten percent of those will
take at least 6 months to correct. The schools are required to
complete and submit abatement plans for the deficiencies that
are not corrected in thirty days; however, there is no or
inadequate funding to correct the deficiencies. Break in
The bottom line is minor problems become major problems if
not addressed immediately and correctly. This hearing is about
BIE School Safety making the grade. A boiler breaks and needs
repair so a school can have heat so the children can go to
school. On Standing Rock, not only is heat a necessity for the
classroom to be functional for the learning of our students,
heat is a necessity for life. This past year the temperature
dropped to 35 degrees below zero. . .several times. If you have
no boiler, you have no heat, you have no heat you have no
school, you have no school, you have no learning. A safe
learning environment fosters just that. . .learning. An unsafe
learning environment promotes and even forces absenteeism, lack
of pride in school and self, and worse of all--loss of
Recommendations for Facility Safety With Regards to Maintenance and
CLARIFY WHERE SCHOOLS GO FOR WHAT? There is a major problem
with the distribution of funds at the very top. BIE receives
and distributes Operation and Maintenance funds while BIA
receives and distributes MR, FINR and Constructions funds. This
causes major confusion for schools. Where do they go to address
major problems versus minor problems or when minor problems
start minor and turn major, or spending 4 months going through
the process in BIE when it should have been addressed through
ADDRESS THE ``BREAKS'' IN THE PROCESS! What is the
procedure for the BUREAU OF INDIAN EDUCATION and the BUREAU OF
INDIAN AFFAIRS when the schools report facilities deficiencies
or when those entities report facility deficiencies? One thing
is clear. . .The process is unclear. Transparency is needed for
trust in the system.
ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS WITH FMIS! If the reporting system is
inaccurate or faulty the reporting is faulty. That is a known
truth. This system has been and continues to be a challenge for
our grant schools. It is the schools' understanding that this
system determines funding not only for their operation and
maintenance funding but funding for minor and major repair. Is
the data in the system accurate? As the Rock Creek Grant School
and the Sitting Bull do not have access to the system and rely
on the Great Plains Regional Office Do grant schools have the
capacity (staff and technological skills) for utilization of
ADEQUATE TRAINING: If training is required as a result of
the Grantee Contract with respect to facilities--BIE provide
adequate training and means for training so Schools can stay in
compliance with their end of the agreement.
There were two major reports done by OIG with respect to
safety in the schools, one in 2008 and another in 2010. The
problems identified in both reports are commonplace in our
Tribal Grant Schools. In 2008 the focus of that report was on
the actual facilities and inadequacies within. The 2008 report
assigned dollars and responsibility of those dollars to BIE. In
the second report 2010 the focus was shifted to the grant
schools and the grantee agreements and the responsibility of
the dollars to the grant schools. The problems remained the
virtually the same the only difference is the shift in the
blame. In the meantime nothing is done.