your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Cronkite News: Havasupai students sue over failures in federal education system

Filed Under: Education | Law | National
More on: arizona, bia, bie, cronkite news, havasupai

The view of the Grand Canyon from Havasupai Hilltop. The trail snakes along the bottom of the canyon. Photo by Bri Cossavella / Cronkite News

Lawsuit claims Havasupai students are deprived of ‘basic general education’
By Lily Altavena
Cronkite News

Nine students in the Havasupai Nation have filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that agencies including the Bureau of Indian Education “have knowingly failed to provide basic general education” to children in the remote area of Arizona.

The suit revolves around Havasupai Elementary in the small village of Supai within the Grand Canyon, accessed only through an eight-mile hike or by helicopter. With about 75 total students, according to 2012-2013 BIE numbers – the latest numbers available – the school is small. But parents involved in the lawsuit say its problems are critical. Among their complaints: the school is understaffed, does not provide a general education curriculum, and lacks a system for offering special education.

“This is a landmark civil rights case,” said Alexis DeLaCruz, an attorney with the Native American Disability Law Center, one of the firms involved in the case. “This is the first time anyone has ever filed a lawsuit attempting to address the wholesale denial of equal education opportunities to students attending a BIE school.”

According to the complaint, Havasupai Elementary is so chronically understaffed that the school has been shut down “for weeks at a time” and that “there is no science, history, social studies, foreign language, arts, or physical education curriculum.”

The Bureau of Indian Education, a defendant in the case, told Cronkite News that the agency does not provide comment on pending litigation.

Laila R. is one of the parents who has signed on to the lawsuit. She is only using her first name in the lawsuit and in interviews to protect the identity of her children. She had to send her oldest son to high school outside of the Havasupai reservation. There are no options for high schoolers in the area.

Laila R. eventually decided to take her whole family out of Supai, moving to Yavapai County, because she worried that her younger son was not getting a decent education.

“It made me leave, you know, my culture, my way of life and now I have to kind of put that aside and focus on my kids because my kids have to survive,” she said in an interview with Cronkite News.

Havasupai Nation Chairman Don E. Watahomigie said the school’s problems take a toll on the entire community.

“It’s a burden: a burden all the way around because the way the school is graduating eighth-graders who are not ready for high school yet,” he said.

About 16 percent of students at Havasupai Elementary are proficient in reading and zero percent are labeled as advanced, according to 2012-2013 data from the BIE. One hundred percent of the students are at a basic level in math and science. DeLaCruz said a persistent lack of proficiency in these subjects hamper students in finding a high school to attend.

“Because of the substandard education that the children who attend the school are provided, students cannot meet entrance and admission requirements for admission to even other BIE schools,” she said.

Other claims in the case:
• The school practices “excessive exclusionary discipline.” The complaint alleges that disciplinary actions cause one plaintiff to miss half of instruction time during the week.
• The advisory school board is not included in decision-making. Community members do not have access to recent school data and there is a “pattern of retaliation” against community members who speak up about the school, according to the complaint.
• Students with disabilities do not have equal access to education. The needs of students with disabilities are not being met, DeLaCruz said. Those needs include specialized instruction and necessary accommodations.

Laila R. is looking for a new job to support her family after the move. Her sons are at a public school now, but she said they are reeling from the effects of a BIE education: her oldest son failed many of his ninth-grade classes. She is now an adamant proponent for their education.

“I don’t want them to fail in life but to be successful,” she said.

These Native education issues go beyond the Havasupai Tribe, DeLaCruz said.

“The examples you see out of Havasupai really do face Native American children attending BIE schools across the country,” she said.

The federal government has 30 days to respond to the complaint. Nothing in court has been scheduled yet.

Note: This article is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Additional Coverage:
Barely Two R’s Are Taught at School That Led Tribe to Sue U.S. (The New York Times 1/23)
Havasupai students sue federal government for better teachers (The Arizona Republic 1/18)
U.S. government has ‘dismally failed’ to educate Native American children, lawsuit alleges (The Washington Post 1/12)
The Longstanding Crisis Facing Tribal Schools (The Atlantic 1/12)
Lawsuit faults Bureau of Indian Education schools (AP 1/12)
9 Havasupai Native American children are suing the US Bureau of Indian Education. Here's why. (Mic 1/12)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Tribes in for long haul as oil continues to flow through Dakota Access
Mark Trahant: Don't plan on getting sick if you're from Indian Country
Tiffany Midge: I shall joke as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow
Director of Office of Indian Energy deletes offensive Twitter account
States cheer decision on grizzly bears amid tribal concerns about hunts
Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory
New York Times editorial board reconsiders stance on racist trademarks
Colville Tribes remove council member a week before citizens go to polls
Marijuana firm promises big investments with help of ex-Seminole chair
Lumbee Tribe ordered to release voter list to opponents of chairman
National Indian Gaming Association chooses David Bean as vice chair
Eastern Cherokee citizen promoted to vice president of casino marketing
Tribes in Connecticut waiting on governor to sign bill for new casino
Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
Tribes go it alone on climate change as Trump team shifts priorities
Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties
Steve Russell: The GI Bill changed the United States for the better
Harold Monteau: Democrats lack proactive agenda, proactive strategy
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe orders 20 non-citizens to leave reservation
Wilton Rancheria accused of working too closely with city on casino
Witness list for hearing on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Arne Vainio: What does the princess want to be when she grows up?
Doug George-Kanentiio: 'Spirit Game' brings Iroquois lacrosse to life
Cronkite News: Navajo activist vows fight against racist NFL mascot
Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans
Bill for tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies advances in California
Ramapough Lunaape Nation wins reversal of ruling on prayer camp
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waits on casino ruling from Trump team
Another former leader of Winnebago Tribe pleads in gaming theft case
Supreme Court ruling poses hurdle for opponents of racist NFL mascot
Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court ruling
Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget
Mark Trahant: Republicans write health reform bill behind closed doors
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band focuses on protecting our groundwater
Steven Newcomb: Asserting our traditions in the era of Donald Trump
Shasta Dazen: 'Family Spirit' program incorporates our tribal traditions
Secretary Zinke shuffles top Indian Affairs officials at Interior Department
Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture
Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order
Muscogee Nation asserts authority at allotment where casino was proposed
Mark Trahant: Dakota Access decision offers a chance to return to respect
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hails 'victory' in Dakota Access Pipeline case
Nooksack Tribe told to close casino amid leadership and citizenship feud
Kristi Noem: Enough is enough - It's time to fix the Indian Health Service
Second hearing scheduled on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Trump nominee for appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.