Indian commission hears racial profiling concerns

Appeal Capitol Bureau

Parents of American Indian students attending Carson High School told the Nevada Indian Commission on Friday they are working with school officials to correct what they say is racial profiling.

The group was brought to the commission by Laura Mijanovich of the American Civil Liberties Union, who said they contacted her asking how to stop the practice.

"There is a pattern of enforcement at the school district level we think is discriminatory," Mijanovich said.

The controversy developed after a fight at the school in early September. Ramona Malone said her son and other American Indians at the school were taken to the office for questioning. A total of 13 were taken in even though a tutor verified at least five could not have been involved because they were in a a class meeting discussing career opportunities with her at the time, she said.

"They were questioned about their gang involvement, not about a fight," she said. Malone said the boys were told by police they had to fill out cards detailing what gangs they were in and told by police they were now listed as gang members.

Sheriff's officials, however, have said the cards were "field interrogation" sheets, which do not ask about gang affiliation. The cards were returned to parents during a meeting with school and sheriff's officials last month.

James Ridgeway, one of the students, told the Indian Commission he didn't appreciate the tactics.

"It seems like we're always being troubled by school police and deans," he said. "It's like if something happens, it's our fault and I don't appreciate that from the school."

Ridgeway's mother, Debra, said he was called in to the office at Carson High School two days after the fight.

"They specifically told him he was being pulled in because of his ethnicity," she said.

"They're still being harassed," Malone said.

Mijanovich said a group of parents asked the ACLU to help them deal with the school. She and Commission Executive Director Sherrada James told the commission they don't want intervention at this time because they are trying to deal with school officials.

"I think school officials are reacting and changing," she said.

She said the purpose of the appearance before the Indian Commission was to advise them of the situation.

The item wasn't officially on the commission agenda and members took no action on the issue. Chairman Richard Harjo told parents to contact James if they wish something to be formally put on the next commission agenda.


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