A special report on race in Montana by The University of Montana School of Journalism
Northern Cheyenne
Fort Peck
Rocky Boy's
Ft. Belknap
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Photo by Kathryn Stevens

A new middle school was built in Ronan two years ago, after a fire destroyed the previous building. The halls are decorated with photos of Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'O'reille chiefs and the flag of the Flathead Nation.


Making the Grade
Do Ronan school teachers and staff understand the needs of Indian students?

Story by Kelley McLandress
Photos by Kathryn Stevens



In 1999 the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights found that the Ronan School District applied discipline unevenly for its Native Americans and white students. The district changed its procedures. In 2004 the office concluded that the changes made in the Ronan schools were satisfactory.

Ronan City Park is a regular hang out for many youths in Ronan. Shayna Parker, 18, and her friends say Indians and non-Indians don't mix socially. "Sometimes they try to hang out with us, but it just doesn't work. It's too hard for them, I guess," Parker says.

Julie Cajune, Indian education coordinator, Ronan Schools, says: "There's a fragile relationship that exists in the Ronan schools, and it needs a lot of work. But people can't talk to each other unless they feel valued."

Jesse Janssen, dropout prevention specialist for the Ronan School District, talks with Melissa Whitworth, 15, a freshman at Ronan High School in the In-School Suspension room. ISS is similar to detention, but the student's are considered to be out of school. Students are sent here for missing class or for behavioral problems. Janssen checks up on students to make sure they are doing homework and to see what other issues they might be dealing with outside the classroom.

Leslie Caye, leadings a session during the "Peace Keeping Days" for Ronan Middle School's seventh graders. Caye is a dropout prevention specialist for the Tribal Education Department.

Tanya Grey, center, listens as students describe obstacles they face navigating through middle school. Seventh-grade students in Ronan Middle School spent two days this spring talking with mediators and doing community building activities as a part of "Peace Keeping Days."

Tanya Grey teaches her students a game that focuses on cooperation. The two-day mediation session was for the seventh grade class, whose members are still trying to cope with the deaths of two boys last year of alcohol poisoning and hypothermia. Both of the 11-year-old boys were in the sixth grade at the time.


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