Tulsa Public Schools Revamp Indian Education Program

TULSA — Despite public pushback, Tulsa Public Schools is moving forward with plans to reorganize its Indian Education Program.

The proposed reorganization of the district’s Indian Education Program calls for it to have just three resource advisers to work with TPS’ Indigenous secondary students on a 12-month contract. The seven current advisers, who are all certified teachers paid for through federal funds, would be eligible to apply for one of those three spots or be moved to another position within the district.

As currently worded, the department would also have six non-certified teacher’s assistants at elementary schools and a cultural enrichment specialist would be hired to work with Native TPS students across all grades.

District officials have maintained that the reorganization is necessary due to a drop in Native student enrollment based on the 506 forms returned by parents that are used to determine federal and tribal per-pupil funding. District enrollment overall has declined by about 5,000 students since the 2004-2005 school year. As of mid-February, TPS has about 3,100 Native students with a 506 form on file with the district.

Both the district’s parent committee and Tulsa’s Indigenous community have complained about the district’s lack of discussion on the matter, which is tentatively scheduled to go before the school board in mid-March.

“If you get the Native community involved, we can help increase the district’s enrollment,” Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Cohenour said, addressing a TPS representative at the commission’s Feb. 18 meeting. “I just wish you had taken that approach first.”

Full coverage is available online at NativeOklahoma.us.

MMIP bills languish while regalia legislation advances

OKLAHOMA CITY — With a key deadline advancing, four bills aimed at addressing the rate of Oklahoma’s missing and murdered Indigenous people are still awaiting a committee hearing.

House Bill 3345, also known as Ida’s Law, would create a liaison’s office within the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations to work with tribal communities and law enforcement, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office and the Office of the Secretary of Native American Affairs on cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people. The bill also specifically calls for the liaison’s office to be staffed by a missing person specialist who has extensive experience working in and with tribal communities.

Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, the bill was originally slated to be heard on Feb. 11, but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute with no explanation.

The bill is named in honor of Ida Beard, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. Beard disappeared from her El Reno neighborhood in 2015 and to date, is still missing.

Assigned to the Public Health Committee, House Bill 2847 from Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton) would create a Red Alert system to go out when an Indigenous person disappears and is believed to be at risk for foul play or has other conditions that warrant additional concern. Similar to an Amber Alert when a child is reported missing or a Silver Alert when a senior citizen is missing, a Red Alert notification would be sent out statewide.

Also authored by Pae, House Bill 2848 would require the Council on Law Enforcement

Education and Training to add cultural sensitivity training and at least one hour of instruction on the issues connected to the missing and murdered Indigenous people to its basic training curriculum for law enforcement certification. It has been assigned to the Public Safety Committee.

Authored by Rep. Merelyn Bell (D-Norman) and assigned to the Judiciary Committee, House Bill 3890 expands the parameters of spousal rape to include instances where the victim is unconscious or unable to give consent due to mental illness or incapacitation by narcotics.

Under the legislature’s standing deadlines, bills must make it out of their original

committee by Feb. 27.

Meanwhile, House Bill 3046 passed unanimously out of the Common Education Committee on Feb. 18 and now awaits a floor vote in the House of Representatives. The measure prohibits school districts from barring its Native students from wearing tribal regalia at graduation. Several Oklahoma school districts have balked at students wearing eagle feathers, moccasins and other regalia components in recent years, including Latta, Caney Valley, Sapulpa, and Vian.

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