Tribal Leaders Congress touches on hot-button issues

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2020 11:26am
  • News

Two state lawmakers touched on some hot button issues at a recent online meeting of the Tribal Leaders Congress.

Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, showed support for the controversial sex education bill that the legislature passed, but is being challenged by Initiative 90 in the Nov. 3 election.

She and 40th District Rep. Debra Lekanoff both talked about diversity, equity, racism and hatred.

Wellman said the main goals of the sex ed bill are to reduce sexually transmitted diseases in teens and to educate younger kids about “safe touching.”

“It’s so appropriate for young kids,” she said.

Wellman said it’s also about “exploring your sexuality and being comfortable with who you are.”

If parents don’t like a curriculum, there are 27 options to choose from, she said, adding districts can even make up their own as long as they meet state-mandated benchmarks.

Lekanoff said tribes need to let educators know how they learn.

“There’s the western way of learning, and there’s our way of learning,” she said.

She added that tribes can lead the way when it comes to diversity and equity.

“Racism and hatred are over and done with,” Lakanoff said, adding if someone does it they have to be told it’s “not acceptable behavior.”

Wellman said COVID-19 restrictions are really hurting education because most students are not in class.

“That’s disconcerting for little ones,” she said. “That’s not the way to start up.”

She said teachers need more professional development so they can learn how to create a “rich learning environment.”

Wellman said online learning is tough because “it’s not a system of equity,” as tribal lands don’t have the internet connections people have elsewhere.

“The teacher disappears or the mouth and the words don’t match up,” she said. “That’s no way for a child to learn.”

She doesn’t see things changing anytime soon as she’s told many people don’t want their kids to return to school until there is a vaccine.

Both encouraged tribes to speak out and vote.

“Choose to make your voice heard,” Wellman said.

Lekanoff added, “Be part of the conversation.”

Jessica Porter, a consultant, said at the same Zoom meeting that she talked with tribes statewide about their education priorities, which are:

•expand tribal education professional development. “Not just what, but how and who is teaching” is important, Porter said.
•develop cultural education for Native American students.
•increase high speed internet.
•improve data-tracking process to learn more about educational outcomes.
In a related matter, the Equity in Education Coalition has made a proposal to close the digital divide.
Its summary says: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a bright light on many social inequities negatively impacting Indigenous, Black and Communities of Color, low-income communities, students and elders. Digital access and use is no exception.
“As many schools moved to virtual instruction last spring, many students and their families struggled to access technical equipment such as laptops; access high-speed internet services needed for multiple students to engage in online activities; and access the support to learn in a virtual environment.”
The report also says 285,000 students statewide don’t have internet due to lack of a connection, lack of hardware or lack of literacy.
Their pilot project includes: affordable broadband service; internet-enabled devices; access to digital literacy training to students, elders and adults; quality technical support; and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.

The pilot project costs approximately $6.1 million, and Gov. Jay Inslee is being asked for funding.

To read more on the proposal and sign a petition supporting it go to:

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