Background check system failing at Indian schools

Background check system failing at Indian schools

Excerpted from an Argus Leader story by Jonathan Ellis

The Bureau of Indian Education is failing to provide adequate criminal background checks on employees and volunteers working with Native American children, a federal audit has found.

The findings from the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior raise concerns that unsuitable people are in contact with students in 51 BIE operated schools and 130 tribally operated schools.

“In this evaluation, we found that the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is not ensuring that required background checks for individuals who work with children at Indian education facilities are complete and being reinvestigated on schedule, leaving children vulnerable to contact with persons who would be determined to be unfit based on a completed background check,” the OIG report says.

A glaring hole in what should be a safety net for children is BIE’s failure to ensure that screenings are taking place with local law enforcement agencies, the report says. In 2002, the Bureau of Indian Affairs required local background checks after an employee with eight previous arrests for driving drunk caused four fatalities in a head-on collision. The employee would not have qualified for employment but, because the drunken driving records had been handled by tribal police, they were not discovered in the bureau’s background check.

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