ACLU sues South Dakota school district on behalf of Native Americans

| Sat Apr. 1, 2006 11:28 PM EST

The American Civil Liberties Union has just filed a class action suit against South Dakota's Winner School District. The suit charges that the district maintains an environment hostile to Native Americans by giving Native American students harsher discipline and by forcing them to sign confessions for minor rule-breaking.

According to the ACLU, Native American students in the Winner District are given very different treatment from white students. They are three times as likely to be suspended from school, and ten times more likely to be referred to law enforcement. In the Winner district, Native American students are coerced into signing confessions, which are then used to get convictions in juvenile court.

The Attorney General of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe noted that the school district is the second largest employer in the county, yet only two employees out of more than 100 are Native American.

"Native American students are accused of gang-related activities for walking in groups of three or more or wearing bandanas, while their white counterparts are encouraged to wear bandanas at sporting events. And Native Americans are actively discouraged from participating in sports activities."

The ACLU, in challenging the "school to prison pipeline" which is becoming more prevalent in American communities, has identified several policies and practices which exist: zero tolerance policies which criminalize minor school infractions, the bypassing of due process for children, and policy initiatives emphasizing testing and statistics, which lead to pushing out low-performing students.