RCAS parents plan exit to Oglala Lakota County Schools
RAPID CITY, S.D. — South Dakota is an open enrollment state, which allows students to attend any public school that serves the student’s grade level in any South Dakota district.
To put the power of choice back in the hands of Rapid City parents, the NDN Collective invited parents to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to complete district transfer requests for the neighboring Oglala Lakota County School Distrtict. Although the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings has been recognized by South Dakota as state standards, to date, there has not been a metric to assess the level of implementation across districts. The move to remote learning within the Oglala Lakota School District would provide native children with culturally relevant course material, as Indigenous classes are oftentimes just electives. Amy Sazue, the education equity organizer for NDN Action says that only a handful of schools offer language courses, and outside of attending those schools, students must be taught at home, and find outside resources.
“Oceti Sakowin essential understandings shouldn’t be viewed as a separate set of standards,” said Sarah Pierce, the director of education equity for NDN Action. “It should actually be viewed as an increased cultural proficiency or social responsibility to teach our students across the state of South Dakota. The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings talks about the history of South Dakota through the lens of the Indigenous experiences and our innate connection to the land and our environment.”
NDN representatives agree that students have the greatest success when they are placed in environments that help them feel safe, and representation is a start. This is significant in Rapid City Area Schools, as Native Americans account for 21% of the student population, but account for less than 2% of the staff.
“Share the significance of culturally relevant curriculum and activities, and give our children, all of our kids in the district, non-native and native kids the opportunity to see Lakota people as experts in our own culture, and our own language and in our community in this area,” said Sazue.
Although parents were able to complete transfer paperwork, those requests must still be approved by the school board before families can begin the enrollment process. Pending approval, the NDN and Oglala Lakota County schools will work to put a plan in place to serve all students of all socioeconomic levels, as transfer students will have to attend virtually.