A New York University law school graduate focused on Montana in general, and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in particular, to produce a legal paper that is highly critical of public schools on reservations in the state.
Melinda Healey, now a clerk for a federal judge in Tennessee, authored “The School-to-Prison Pipeline Tragedy on Montana’s American Indian Reservations,” Stephanie Woodard reports at Indian Country Today Media Network.
Stuck in failing public school in impoverished communities, Montana’s American Indian children face high rates of suspension, expulsion and arrest, with little regard for due process, Healey found. Being pushed out of school means separation from friends and positive routines and, for many youngsters, regular meals. This, in turn, drives not just trouble with the law but also some of the nation’s highest suicide rates, according to Healey. She recounts heartbreaking stories of Montana Native kids who killed themselves, or tried to, after being disciplined at school.
ICTMN says Healey indicates part of the blame lies with “zero-tolerance programs and the No Child Left Behind Act, which penalizes inferior schools financially without offering meaningful resources for improvement. As a result, schools want to get rid of those students who require the most help to meet MCLN’s testing criteria.”
She is also critical of a Montana Supreme Court decision that dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Wolf Point School Board. The lawsuit was filed by the mother of a teenager who committed suicide after being kicked off the high school wrestling team for possessing a can of chewing tobacco.
“Despair, prison and untimely death should not and need not be the ending places of public education for our most vulnerable children,” Healey wrote in her paper, recently published in the New York University Review of Law and Social Change.”
- Vince Devlin