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Teachers: Chemawa Indian School not protecting students

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Former teachers at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon accuse the school of failing to keep students safe. 

Educators and parents testified before Congress this week on allegations against the Native American boarding school. 

Joy O'Renick, a former Chemawa Indian School teacher, testifies at the U.S. Capitol, May 17, 2019. (Nexstar)  

Joy O’Renick, a former Chemawa teacher, said one of her special education students came to class one day in tears. 

“When we spoke in the hall, she told me she had been raped on campus the night before,” O’Renick said. 

The student also claimed her attacker was the boy who sat behind her in class. 

O’Renick reported the rape to the school. 

“They had not provided her counseling or medical treatment, had not separated her physically from her alleged attacker and stated that they weren’t giving credibility to her report because she was special eduction and probably confused,” the teacher said. 

Both students were expelled but an investigation was never launched, according to O’Renick. 

Former teachers also told lawmakers the sheer number of students expelled each year for questionable reasons is alarming. 

They said the students are kicked out after Chemawa receives funding for the students for the full year. 

Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici expressed alarm over how the Bureau of Indian Affairs is handling allegations against Chemawa Indian School, May 17, 2019. (Nexstar) 

“I find it difficult to imagine the backlash most public schools would receive if they expelled 36 percent of their students in one year,” O’Renick said. 

Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici expressed alarm over how the Bureau of Indian Affairs is handling the allegations. 

“They say they have the best interest of the students in mind,” Bonamici said. “But what we have seen and heard not just in the hearing but over the last several years, has not indicated that.” 

Lawmakers said the Chemawa Indian School is not giving them straight answers and no representatives from the school attended the hearing. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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