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Wis. District Did Not 'Abuse' Indian Students, State Finds

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Madison--Allegations of racial bias in Wisconsin's Bayfield school district are unfounded, according to a report released last week by the state department of public instruction.

But the report did find that a few of the school district's 35 teachers had used "questionable practices" to discipline both American Indian and white children.

Disciplinary Tactics

The practices included such disciplinary tactics as "hitting, slapping, slamming students against the wall, forcing them to do pushups," or taping them to desks, the report said.

The department's equal-opportunity division began the investigation last September, after receiving a petition signed by 100 residents of the Red Cliff Chippewa Reservation and several letters from American Indian children alleging they had been physically abused by teachers. Sixty percent of the northern Wisconsin school district's 469 students are American Indians.

The investigation, however, could not substantiate allegations of "psychological abuse" of American Indian students, "negative-stereotype reinforcement," or of forcing children to walk home when they were ill.

No Evidence of Abuse

The investigation also found no evidence that teachers "psychologically abuse [American] Indian children by telling them they are incapable of reading or handling mathematics and other subjects," according to the department's report.

Rather, those interviewed by department staff members said they believed that most teachers were sincerely concerned about the students as individuals and as learners.

The investigators found no evidence to support the allegation that teachers repeatedly tell American Indian pupils that their parents are ''drunken, stupid, lazy, dirty," and do not pay taxes.

Moreover, the investigators reported, when a child becomes sick, the school routinely notifies parents or guardians so that transportation can be arranged.

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