Bureau of Indian Affairs reports progress in inspections at schools

A boiler in a Bureau of Indian Affairs classroom failed an inspection in February 2015 because carbon monoxide levels were too high, according to the Government Accountability Office. The level reads 1,267 parts per million (ppm) -- levels above 100 ppm can cause headaches, according to DetectCarbonMonoxide.com. Levels above 1,000 ppm can lead to loss of consciousness after 1 hour of exposure and even death after prolonged exposure. Photo from GAO

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is on track to complete inspections of all schools, a top official said on Wednesday.

Director Mike Black said about 50 percent of Bureau of Indian Education institutions have been inspected so far. The goal is to have all of the work complete by August 31, or close to the start of the new school year.

"We are on target to reach August 31 and have all of them inspected," Black told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The BIA has been promising to inspect all of the schools after the Government Accountability Office issued a highly critical report in March that said 69 out of 180 institutions were missed in 2015. In 2014, 67 were missed and 55 were missed in 2013.

According to the report, BIA staff in the the Northwest, Southern Plains, Southwest and Western regions have been repeatedly failing to complete all of their inspections -- as far back as 2008 in some instances.

"In particular, we found that one of the largest BIE boarding schools — which enrolled about 630 students in 2015 — had not been inspected by Indian Affairs since fiscal year 2011," the GAO wrote.

In another case, a school and dormitory had 11 failing boilers that weren't fixed for eight months, subjecting students and staff to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide poisoning, the report stated.

Government Accountability Office Report:
Key Actions Needed to Ensure Safety and Health at Indian School Facilities (March 10, 2016)

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