Press release from James Cadwell:
United States Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights to investigate Chamberlain School Board for Civil Rights violation.
The Chamberlain School board is being investigated for possible civil right violation. The alleged violation came about as a result of the boards denial to allow James Cadwell and Lynn Hart to formally present a letter of support from the King Center of Atlanta, Georgia for the honor song. In a email/letter dated April 8, 2014 from the superintendent of Chamberlain Schools Deb Johnson, Cadwell was told he could no longer bring up the Honor song and that she, superintendent Johnson, was informed by the board to not allow Cadwell to be put on the April 15, 2014 agenda to discuss the honor song. Ironically, the board at the very meeting Cadwell had requested to participate in to introduce the letter of support from the King Center, they, the board, modified the rules surrounding public participation and input and approved an amendment to read that subjects brought up by the public can only be discussed once. In addition they also amended their policy about length of time and now restrict the amount of time they can be discussed. It should be noted that this is direct conflict with the track record of the board. With the recent attempt by the board to build a new 13.5 million dollar multi purpose building the public has addressed this issue meeting after meeting with no opposition from the board or restriction of the amount of time spent on the discussion. It would appear that the restriction to the Native American Honor song is an attempt by the board to eliminate public input on subjects they are not in favor of. The whole idea behind public input is to help the board understand and to sway the boards decisions with the public exercising its desires.
Previously the board rejected a petition that was signed by over 200 of the staff and students of the Chamberlain Schools who were in favor of the honor song. In one of the responses to the petition board member Jay Blum made reference to hear say information, saying that he talked to a friend of a friend who said he was told by a student that he the student felt pressured in to signing the petition.
Past comments from the school board read like a horror story, President Rebecca Riemers told the public in one of the school board meetings that the issue of the honor song is dead! We will not be discussing it again. Additional comment include member Casey Hutmaker telling the public during a board meeting that “Chamberlain school is an english speaking school, we speak english here we don’t need any other language” as he made reference to the honor song. Addition comments in the same meeting found Hutmaker saying “we say the Pledge of Allegiance here that’s all we need”. Board member Dallas Thompson made reference to Crow Creek Sioux Tribe with this statement “Those people have all kinds of problems up there they need to straighten out their own issues. These kids are doing just fine until those adults got involved!”
The request for the honor song has received national support from the King Center, NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, with additional support of South Dakotas largest newspaper both in and out of Indian country and the South Dakota Indian Education Association who moved their conference as a direct result of the honor song denial by the school board. Chamberlain Schools minority population has increased to nearly 40% in the past few years with Native American students making up over 38% of that population. In addition some of the Elementary classrooms Native American population exceeds 50%.
Most recently the Chamberlain school board accepted the resignation of the lone Minority member American Indian Marcel Felicia and replaced him with the past president Rebeca Riemers who did not run for re-election in the last election.
In a letter received by Mr. Cadwell dated September 3, 2014 the United States Department of Education office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into alleged discrimination on the basis race. The office of civil rights is responsible for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964(TitleVI),42 U.S.C 200d and it’s implementing regulation, 34 C.F.R. Part 100. Title VI prohibits recipients of Federal assistance from the Department from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin.
As a recipient of federal financial assistance from the department, the district is subject to Title VI.