The decision wasn't a complete win for the plaintiffs, though. Logan dismissed five of the students because none of them are presently enrolled at the Havasupai Elementary School in Arizona. Levi R. and Leo R. had gone to the school from kindergarten through eighth grade but their parents moved off the reservation so they could obtain an education in a public school setting, the judge noted. Similarly, Jenny A., Jeremy A., and Jordan A. have been sent to a BIE boarding school in Oklahoma by their mother because of the local school's "inability to meet her children’s educational needs," according to the complaint. In the ruling, Logan said these five students "failed to meet their burden of establishing that they have standing to bring their claims against defendants." But students like Levi, Leo and Jenny have little say in the matter. Once they reach the ninth grade, they have to continue their education elsewhere because Havasupai Elementary, which is located in Supai, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, only serves students from kindergarten through the eighth grade. Younger kids have no choice either. Havasupai is only option on the reservation for elementary-aged students.
That's all the more reason why the students and the parents want to see improvements at the school. According to BIE data from school year 2012-2013, Havasupai ranked at the bottom of achievement levels and few gain proficiency in reading or math. “Each day the federal government continues to fight this lawsuit, Havasupai children lose another day of school that they will never get back,” said Tara Ford, the clinical supervising attorney at the Stanford Law School Youth and Education Law Project, who is serving of counsel in the case. The $1.3 trillion spending billl that was signed into law last month provides $579 million for elementary and secondary education programs at the BIE, which is part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The amount is nearly $59.2 million greater than the amount President Trump sought for those programs. The bulk of the funding is distributed to BIE schools based on a funding formula that is part of the Indian School Equalization Program. The formula takes into account student enrollment, so smaller institutions like Havasupai receive fewer dollars. However, in August 2002, the BIA finalized an update to program's regulation in order to ensure that "special education students are placed in the least restrictive environment possible and that placements are based upon the needs of students, not the funding formula," according to a notice published in the Federal Register at the time. Related Stories:
Cronkite News: Havasupai students sue over failures in federal education system (January 23, 2017)