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Updated: Thursday, 06 May 2010, 5:26 PM MDT
Published : Thursday, 06 May 2010, 4:37 PM MDT
WASHINGTON (KRQE) - Appalling safety lapses at Bureau of Indian schools documented by KRQE News 13 will be the subject of a Senate hearing in Washington.
Sen. Tom Udall , D-N.M., said the May 13 hearing will focus on "massive health and safety deficiencies" at BIA schools, many of them in New Mexico.
“If these problems were occurring anywhere else in America, the public outcry would be enormous,” Udall said in a statement released by his office. “The unfortunate reality is that the safety concerns facing children in our country’s Native communities are all too often ‘out of sight, out of mind.’
"It’s my hope that this hearing will be the first step in remedying this unacceptable situation.”
Udall, who serves on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee , said he requested the hearing several months ago as part of his proposal to eliminate the construction and maintenance backlog of reservation facilities.
Udall credited KRQE News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker with highlighting the dangers faced by Native American students and the lack of response by the BIA despite pleadings from school administrators.
Barker's two-part report documented failed fire alarms, code violations, structurally unsound buildings and handicap-access issues at numerous schools in the BIA's Albuquerque-based Southwest Region.
BIA officials blamed lack of funding with one estimating it would take $1.3 billion to deal with the known issues.
Udall has criticized plans to cut $8 million from the BIA budget for future school construction and maintenance. He and colleagues have written to the Senate Budget Committee requesting the BIA school construction budget be increased from President Obama's requested $53 million to $293, which was its level in 2003 and the highest amount since then.
The Senate hearing requested by Udall is scheduled to begin a 9:30 a.m. EDT.