The Native Student Environment Initiative

Secretary Arne Duncan, 2014 Student Voices Session-Native Student Environments

Secretary Arne Duncan, 2014 Student Voices Session-Native Student Environments

Tribal leaders, parents, and students have consistently raised concerns about Native student environment issues; including bullying, school discipline, stereotypes, as well as harmful imagery and symbolism. Recognizing that Native student environments have long been a concern, WHIAIANE and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in October, 2014 launched an effort to gather more information regarding Native student environment issues, which resulted in listening sessions across seven states with over 1,000 participants.

During the listening sessions, WHIAIANE gathered information from participants on many issues such as bullying, student mental health, instructional content, and Native languages. This report summarizes that information. Each section includes a brief description of a common theme found across listening sessions followed by supporting data and testimonies from youths, parents, teachers, and others affected by these issues. The report also discusses community programs that bring hope and success to AI/AN students and present areas in need of improvement. To convey speaker thoughts and attitudes as authentically as possible, this report includes direct quotes from the listening sessions and from previous tribal consultations. Please be advised that some of the language included in the direct quotes may be graphic. The report also includes summaries of select testimonies; within the testimony sections of the report, any statement attributed to a participant that is not in direct quotations is a paraphrase of the participant’s statement. Where possible, the report reflects participants’ tribal affiliations based on available public information. Within this report, the terms “American Indian and Alaska Native,” “Native American,” and “indigenous” are used interchangeably as is necessary for each term’s specific use.

Recommendations pertaining to the federal government include to:

  • Identify and share positive community practices.
  • Conduct outreach and engagement regarding the civil rights complaints process.
  • Provide guidance regarding mascots and imagery.
  • Better identify and report the race and ethnicity of students.

Recommendations pertaining to states and local districts include to:

  • Support Native American languages.
  • Promote positive school discipline.
  • Address teacher and school staff attitudes and behavior.
  • Address negative student attitudes and bullying.
  • Promote cultural awareness.
  • Analyze mascots and imagery.
  • Address access and equity challenges.
  • Appropriately identify students with disabilities.

Read the full report here


2015 Final Report [PDF]