Retire current offensive & inappropriate Thanksgiving Holiday curriculum & Honor the 2 year academic commitment they made to our daughter, (Jada “Sica” Eagle Bull-Oxendine, 7years old, 2nd grade)
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American Indian & Military (US Navy) Family Faces Cultural Discrimination Through Montessori Holiday Curriculum….Daughter’s Continued Enrollment Denied
Good Day! My name is Hervy James Oxendine, I am from the Lumbee Nation of North Carolina and I am proudly serving in the US Navy in San Diego, CA. My wife is Jeanne Eagle Bull-Oxendine, she is from the Oglala Lakota Nation of Pine Ridge, SD. We are a proud American Indian, Military and Montessori family with four beautiful children;
-- Caske (15 years old, 10th grade)
-- Jake (13 years old, 8th grade)
-- Jada “Sich” (7 years old, 2nd grade)
-- Jase “Maste,” (5 years old, Kindergarten)
Dear Family and Friends,
Thank you for the support and we would like to update you on our efforts.
-Fox 5 News in San Diego interviewed us yesterday, 11/21/13 and the school regarding our efforts in speaking out against the Montessori’s Thanksgiving Curriculum & petition (video & petition links below)
-We've had a conversation with the NAACP in an effort to seek outside assistance with this matter.
We continue our efforts because we received a letter from the Board of Directors on October 19, 2013 stating that this matter was closed. As of to-date the Board of Directors have ignored our 3rd request to meet yet they were willing to meet with Fox 5 News. Our efforts have been not just for our children, they have been for all children, especially Native children. We created the petition to ensure that no other child or family experiences cultural discrimination and retaliation.
We are thankful Fox 5 news for interviewing us and taking the time to address this important matter concerning educational practices at the Maria Montessori School. We have watched the video and liked how the piece came together. We thanked Fox 5 News for reporting and asked them to please let us know if they need any further information. Also, if there is a chance for an editorial update in the future because we would like to provide the following;
We would like to share that we were shocked with Ms. Dena Stoneman’s comments. What she said was completely untrue on all accounts and we have evidence that proves otherwise.
-The offensive curriculum stayed the same for 2012 school year, they continued with the curriculum after our conversation regarding the feathers and their sacred symbolism.
-Our children were requested to stay home for the week of the 2012 Thanksgiving festivities that took place from November 13th -16th.
- Following our requests and repeated attempts to work with the school to change their curriculum in 2012 our daughter was then forced to leave the school due to the offensive curriculum.
Only in 2013 did Maria Montessori change the curriculum.
Again, thank you all for the thoughts of strength for our daughter, Jada.
**Fox 5 San Diego Interview Video Link**
Our family hopes to accomplish the following actions by filing this petition:
-The creation or development of a Cultural Diversity Committee/Heritage Committee comprised of Parents, Students and School Staff with a common mission and goal of tackling these tough topics and presenting an accurate/updated and true representation of all nationalities/cultures.
-A full reinstatement of our daughter’s scholarship to Maria Montessori. We feel the school Administration rescinded her scholarship after speaking out against the school’s current holiday curriculum.
-Maria Montessori agrees to abandon their current holiday curriculum and adopt NMAI’s holiday curriculum.
-And finally, a public apology from Maria Montessori for putting our family, especially our daughter through this mentally/physically challenging time.
The school Administration dismissed and ignored our request to ask parents, teachers and students to “not” dress up as Pilgrims and American Indian during the week of festivities as a pro-active measure to discontinue the perpetuation of stereotypes and harmful material being presented to our children. The curriculum is culturally insensitive-for example, it would be awkward to witness school staff, parents or students dressed up as Asian people for the Chinese New Year or non-Jewish people dressed up to celebrate Hanukah. We were asked by the school administration to keep our children home for the week of the festivities, November 13-16, 2012, so the Thanksgiving celebrations could continue as scheduled.
In short our children were asked to stay home from school the week prior to Thanksgiving by Maria Montessori’s Administration, so the school could continue with their harmful and confusing holiday festivities without our children present. The bizarre part of this incident is the fact that our children were granted their educational scholarships to Maria Montessori based on their cultural heritage (American Indian) and their military affiliation (Father’s Military); so it baffles our family to know that we continue to maintain our Military status and American Indian cultural/heritage, but somehow fail to meet the minimum criteria necessary for our daughter, Jada, to have her scholarship reinstated and she return to school.
We’ve made every effort to openly communicate with the school and have even offered to work hand-and-hand with the school and their staff to get the curriculum updated and in place. We feel the Maria Montessori Board of Directors and the School Administration have blatantly ignored every request and attempt made by our family to resolve this issue at the lowest level. Our family strongly believes in the philosophy and educational values founded by the Montessori – but Maria Montessori seems to have drifted away from the values and beliefs it's parent organization was founded upon.
Unfortunately, our children suffered the most from this event. They witnessed firsthand, ceremonial events (cultural re-enactments) that should only be practiced by Native Americans in traditional settings/ceremonies. These events caused unnecessary confusion and raised numerous questions about their culture identity and how it should be understood and practiced. Emotional and psychologically distress was also witnessed by our family, when our kids were asked to stay at home while every other child was present for the holiday festivities. We kept our children home for the week in fear they would further be humiliated, emotionally upset, and psychologically scarred.
The current curriculum does not portray or represent Native American people and their culture, but perpetuates stereotypes and spreads inaccurate myths. Below are some of the festivities/events the school had the kids participate in:
• Students crafting religious symbols of the Native American culture i.e. eagle feathers, and headbands whereby students were not informed of their sacred meaning by a culturally competent educator, consultant, or advisor.
• Students were also allowed to “pretend to be Indians” inside of a fabricated teepee.
• American Indian names were given to each student (without regards to sacred traditions and meanings)
• Students being taught to dress up as Native Americans and the teacher conducting an “American Indian name giving” activities and dances.
Bottom Line Up From: Our children’s Civil Rights were violated and our daughter was psychologically damaged during this process-she is an innocent victim in this situation. But, also this is important because no child or family should ever have to deal with racial discrimination or cultural segregation in today’s diverse society – especially at school with the following policies:
Maria Montessori Parent Handbook 2013-2014
Page 3 -V. Non-Discriminatory Policy: We adhere to a policy of non-discrimination in regard to race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Page 20- XVI Human Values Policy: to focus on self-respect and respect for others.
The actions imposed on our family by Maria Montessori are a direct contradiction to the philosophy published in Maria Montessori’s by-laws. Their philosophy centers on providing a nurturing and all-inclusive learning environment; however, our children were not afforded that same luxury last November.
We draw strength from our Nation's civil rights activists, they perservered with dignity and bravery-“Rosa Parks didn’t stop riding the bus because she was prohibited from sitting in the front-she rode in the front of the bus because it was her civil right to do so. We feel our children should be able to attend the Maria Montessori School in a positive environment and without facing a violation of their civil rights. As parents, we are the biggest advocate for our children so thank you for taking the time to sign the petition. Our hope is to ensure this does not happen to another child or family. We thank you for your endless support.
A nation is not conquered
Until the hearts of its women are on the ground.
Then it is finished, No matter how brave its warriors
Or how strong their weapons.
-- Cheyenne Proverb
Our most recent correspondence with Maria Montessori School’s Board of Directors, the Argonauta Board of Directors.
October 31, 2013
Argonauta Board President
and Argonauta Board of Directors
Maria Montessori School
4544 Pocahontas Ave.
San Diego, CA 92117
James & Jeanne Eagle Bull – Oxendine
Dear Argonata Board of Directors,
In response to Ms. Jundt’s letter dated Oct. 19, 2013, we do not consider this matter closed. We are formally requesting a meeting with the board to address the following unresolved issues regarding the forced disenrollment of our daughter Jada and the unqualified inaccuracies shared in the letter and to the board.
· As previously stated the genesis of the eventual disenrollment of Jada was due to the offensive and culturally insensitive activities the MMS implemented during the Thanksgiving holiday festivities during the 2012 school year. These activities specifically included:
· Students crafting religious symbolisms of the Native American culture i.e. eagle feathers, and headbands whereby students were not informed of their sacred meaning by a culturally competent educator, consultant, or advisor. Students were also allowed to “pretend to be Indians” inside of a fabricated teepee.
· Students dawning Native American styled costumes to pretend they were from a culture which they are not from nor could fully comprehend at their stage of development the act of cultural appropriation through such activities.
· The week long activities which associated Thanksgiving with Native Americans in an oppressed light and unequivocally untrue historical retelling of the “first Thanksgiving”. Through this causing further stereotyped imagery of Native Americans impacting the psyche of Native American students, e.g. Jada and Jase, by exposing them to such mockeries and as evident in research studies to cause depressed state self-esteem among Native American students. As such, consequences were also undoubtedly impressed for non-Native American students who learn negative stereotyped traits of cultures foreign to them by undermining another culture through characterizations both in play activities and the teaching of relegated histories of Native American people.
1. The implementation of activities that are known to cause the bullying of minorities and in this case Native Americans. The curriculum and its associated programming for the week of “Thanksgiving festivities”, November 13-16, 2013 (4 days of regular school) was not in accordance to at least two policies the MMS has stated it would enforce:
a) The use of a Human Values curriculum to focus on self-respect and respect for others.
b) Section 32051 CA Education code, “The commission [in this case commissioned by the MMS itself] that is likely to cause…personal degradation…resulting in mental harm to a fellow student or person attending the school…”
2. The encounter on November 7, 2012 between Ms. Bailey and Ms. Eagle Bull - Oxendine (Jeanne) wherein Jeanne approached the MMS appointed Parent Liaison, Ms. Wintch, to address the culturally insensitive activities as stated in issue number 1, well within school policies. The account of this interaction was misrepresented and void the following accuracies:
· While Jeanne was talking with Ms. Wintch in the school courtyard, Jeanne saw Ms. Maska just inside the school, a few moments later Ms. Bailey, Director, and Ms. Stoneman, Assistant, came out not coincidentally. Ms. Maska who developed the school curriculum and related activities cited in issue number 1, presumably summoned Ms. Bailey and Ms. Stoneman to intervene in the conversation and corral Jeanne.
· The conversation which described Jeanne’s offense to the culturally insensitive curriculum and proposal to create a multi-cultural diversity committee was then immediately responded to by Ms. Bailey’s assertion and remark verbatim, “Jeanne, if you continue to talk about it then we will have to discuss your children’s enrollment at the school.” (See the transcript attached). The remark in affect was a direct threat on the matter that Jada and Jase’s enrollment would be affected if Jeanne shares her offense with associates of the school that have the power to question the curriculum or side with Jeanne’s offense.
· Approaching and sharing concerns with the Parent Liaison is proactive behavior and explicitly not antagonistic.
· Jeanne did not “hound parents” in any way and the facts show that Jeanne consoled with only the Parent Liaison, as is the purpose and intent of the position for parents to communicate directly on matters relating to the MMS.
3. The one week voluntary suspension response made by Ms. Bailey and Ms. Stoneman which requested that our children be removed from the previously described culturally insensitive activities, thereby alienating the children for the following reasons:
· Suspending students for their culture heritage and cultural sensitivity to the activities that undermines and promotes stereotyping of Native Americans.
· The racial discrimination made by requesting students of Native American dissent to lose out on educational opportunity to be provided by the school for the sum of four school days, November 13-16, 2012.
· Upon return from the suspension Jada and Jase were to resume class while knowing the school suspended them and their classmates participated in “festivities” that did not include them.
4. The preponderance of the previously stated offense to the school curriculum activities perpetuating stereotypes of Native Americans; the remarks made by Ms. Bailey which by all accounts threatened the enrollment status of the children; and discriminatory actions taken against Jada and Jase by not being able to participate in the “Thanksgiving festivities”, Mr. and Mrs. Eagle Bull Oxendine determined that further retribution by the MMS was possible and could be made without notice. The listing of events below directly links to eventual placement of Jada into the public school and supports the rationale for the parent’s concerns they would have to find a place that could teach their children without fear of discrimination or retribution for their families’ cultural worldview. Jada was dis-enrolled and requested to be re-enrolled for the following reasons.
· In the case that MMS continued to take retributive actions by dis-enrolling Jada and Jase the parents contacted the public schools to learn what options they had for their children.
· It was urgent for the parents to make alternative plans for Jada who was in the 1st grade as she would not be able to be enrolled in any other educational institution in the area until the next semester. If she was dis-enrolled from MMS she would lose out on further educational opportunity for the remainder of the Fall semester.
· Due to the complex nature of the public school system the enrollment process can take an extensive amount of time to be admitted, Jada was allotted to a preferred school where she would be able to secure a position on an inter-district transfer.
· Measures were taken for Jada to secure the only position in the public schools for utter fear the MMS would dis-enroll her and thereby resulted in Jeanne contacting the school on Friday, November 30, 2012 at approximately 2:30 PM PST to take Jada out of MMS and thereby protecting her from further anguish in the event that the school would not allow her to return.
· Within 48 hours Jeanne rescinded Jada’s disenrollment by contacting Ms. Stoneman via E-mail on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at approximately 10:40 AM PST.
· The response in question occurred after the parents followed procedures to re-apply as requested by Ms. Stoneman, then were told Jada’s scholarship was absconded and given to another student on December 14, 2012.
5. Reasons for the rejection of Jada’s scholarship request which was previously made under no different circumstances i.e. recognition of cultural heritage and service in the military by both parents, other than the offense taken by Jada’s parents to the culturally insensitive curriculum activities, were misguided. The commitment to Montessori education the Eagle Bull Oxendine family has been proven and repeatedly shown. Their commitment and proof the schooling of Jada and Jase at MMS was and remains a priority is recounted as follows:
· Perfect school attendance not withstanding doctors’ appointments that required Jeanne to drive 40 miles round trip to ensure the children’s attendance and adherence to all school policies.
· Student achievement and efforts to maintain quality grades.
· Responsiveness to all other curriculum related activities, events, programs and teacher inquiries.
· Willingness to talk with the Parent Liaison before taking action.
· Inquiring about alternative methods to present the Thanksgiving holiday. This included offering to do a presentation by Jeanne, a qualified Native American consultant, for the school in order to avoid students from being subjected to misrepresentation of information regarding Native Americans.
· Willingness to provide the Montessori with ideas of diversity.
6. The rebuff of Jada’s scholarship is an affront to the facts as stated in issues 1-5. Mr. and Mrs. Eagle Bull Oxendine would like to request the following documents from the MMS, a non-profit public organization, to forward to their lawyer:
· MMS’s financial scholarship allocation records for 2012-2013.
This matter as described above is requested to be further resolved by 1) honoring the commitment made by the MMS in validating her enrollment through scholarship that was offered to Jada for academic years 2012 and 2013; 2) acknowledgement by the Board that the MMS repudiated the offense in which Mr. and Mrs. Eagle Bull – Oxendine attempted to address by verbal dissent; efforts to reconcile the offense by requesting the culturally insensitive activities be stopped and reevaluated; accommodating the voluntary suspension request resulting in loss of educational opportunity for Jada and Jase; and finally the actions taken by the parents to remove Jada from said scenario wherein Jada faced possible disenrollment as commented or made a threat by Ms. Bailey. All events resulting in the forced loss of scholarship.
Unfortunately, the children were negatively impacted the most by the flagrant actions taken by the school for reasons that could have otherwise been addressed in more respectful and ethical ways as expected from Montessori practices.
We look forward to your response and future discussions with the board to close this matter.
Mr. and Mrs. Eagle Bull - Oxendine
Parents of MMS
MMS Board of Directors
American Montessori Society Board of Directors
Mark Bluemel, Attorney
Mary Phillips, Advocate
Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education
Council of American Indian Organization of San Diego County
National Congress of American Indian
National Indian Education Association
Native American Rights Fund
Original Email Statement from Board of Directors granting scholarship September 16, 2012
In recognition of both your cultural heritage and your service in the
military, MMS on Pocahontas St.,would like to offer one or both of
your younger children a financial assistance scholarship for two
years. Please contact Betty Bailey at 858-***-****. The amount of
financial assistance will be based on the amount you are able to pay.
We are looking forward to welcoming you as part of our Montessori
LoAnn Jundt, Board President
Carol Prendergast, Board Member
Betty Bailey, School Director
Online News Articles about Negative Native American Cultural Appropriation from LastRealIndians.com
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JEANNE EAGLE BULL needs your help with “Maria Montessori School Board of Directors San Diego, CA: Retire current offensive & inappropriate Thanksgiving Holiday curriculum & Honor the 2 year academic commitment they made to our daughter, (Jada “Sica” Eagle Bull-Oxendine, 7years old, 2nd grade)”. Join JEANNE and 668 supporters today.