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Oglala Sioux Tribe amends educational quarantine for students

Entering Pine Ridge Sign
Marty G. Two Bulls Jr.
The Pine Ridge Village sign as motorists enter from the north.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted to change the language of an educational ordinance that required students to take online classes.

The Tribe's Law and Order Committee is meeting soon to discuss new protocol to hold schools accountable to follow their plans for safe practices regarding the pandemic for in-person learning in accordance with the new amendment.

The previous iteration of the ordinance required students to go back to online learning.

OST President Kevin Killer says the action they took last week to enact the ordinance reflected the increasing COVID-19 cases reservation-wide.

“I think the social and emotional learning and interaction that that younger generation needs,” said Killer, “we just wanted to make sure that that wasn’t interrupted as well. And basically they took the action last week to virtual learning.”

Red Cloud Indian School students protested the shelter mandate claiming that online learning would hurt their education and impact their future.

With the number of cases rising in the past month, the tribe decided to enter the Red Risk Level of their COVID-19 Response Plan. The Sept. 22 OST Health Administration’s report includes seven new positive cases: five between the ages of 12 and 30 and two in the 60-plus age group.

“So the end result was amended to accommodate the shelter-in-place ordinance that required in-person learning,” said Killer. “It turned into each school developing a return-to-school safety plan ensuring that the vaccinated students can come back and start doing in-person learning. And the ones that aren’t vaccinated, whether that’s their choice or not, can still do online education.”

Some council members say it is important for students to return back to school and the amendment was necessary because the ordinance was written in 2020 when there were no vaccines.

The OST Law and Order Committee will also look into updating the education ordinance’s language to reflect the current use of the vaccines. Members are encouraged to shelter in place.