A majority of Lakota people raising children have a difficult time. The substance abuse epidemic continues to affect all of us, along with the school staff our young people encounter. Substance abuse drastically altered our lives. A majority of Lakota children are exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
Our Takoja are required to attend school under tribal law. We try to follow the law by registering our children for school every year. But schools aren’t safe anymore. School statistics on incidents involving drugs, a bully/gang, firearms or violence prompting a call to 911, should be shared by administrators as soon as they occur. The rumor mill has us all confused.
We understand education begins in the home. Parents, along with extended family members, may or may not work to help their children succeed in school. What we do in our homes carries into our reservation schools.
Another thing to consider is the social environment in our local communities. Think about the community you live in and the effect it has on your family. There are communities whose residents fear leaving their homes for a number of reasons. Our communities grow more unsafe with every single day.
The health of our homes spills over into the school system. This week I read social media posts relating to incidents which allegedly happened at our reservation schools. A student said he received a 10-day suspension for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were some of our students who received two or more 3- to 10-day suspensions during the first quarter of the 2019-2020 school year.
I heard from two different tribal citizens about gun incidents in two of our local schools on Rosebud. Our K-12 students make many threats toward one another and sometimes police are involved. Most grandparents don’t have the answers but we understand the mental health of our young people is crucial to the survival of our Oyate.
A lot of our children grow up experiencing a maximum of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
When our children don’t experience a homelife which promotes healing, nothing will change. Disciplinary actions on our students are required by school policy, but they rarely help young person move any closer to healing from the experiences they lived through in childhood.
I am aware of several families who work hard to provide a safe and healthy environment for their young people. Yet, when our young relatives leave our homes, they must deal with their peers, school staff and others. Peers are the most difficult group to interact with. Middle and high school students with trauma-ridden childhoods need extra help in school; counselors are not equipped to deal with young people who are adversely affected by their environment.
I’ve learned it doesn’t do any good to visit with people working at the school. When dealing with school staff and administrators, our people often feel they are degraded. For instance, school staff will profess to be intimidated by the family of a student without a valid reason. Sometimes we are lied to when we visit our young people’s schools. Classroom management doesn’t seem to be very effective.
Some suggestions I’ve read on social media posts advocate for us to visit one another, that is, we are told to approach parents of students who continue to provoke incidents where police are summoned. It might or might not work. It could cause more problems for the people trying to resolve issues. For example, it’s a major challenge to be asked to reason with adults who perpetuate an environment which promotes adverse childhood experiences; or adults who are active alcohol or drug users.
We all must provide healing spaces for our children.
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org