Lawsuit says Havasupai students deprived of ‘basic general education’

Nine students from Supai Village, located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, have filed a lawsuit against the federal govenment after students said they were denied basic general education and other services. Loretta Yerian/NHO

Nine students from Supai Village, located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, have filed a lawsuit against the federal govenment after students said they were denied basic general education and other services. Loretta Yerian/NHO


Attorney with Native American Disability Law Center say the education of Native children is a bigger issue and goes beyond the Havaupai Tribe. Loretta Yerian/NHO

PHOENIX — Nine students in the Havasupai Nation have filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that agencies including the Bureau of Indian Education 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.


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Milana11 2 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the information. I think that the lawsuit is absolutely fair and definitely, it has a place to be. Everyone has the right for the basic education, isn’t it true? Thus, it’s important to build a comfortable school in Havasupai that would be easy to reach. Nobody wants to walk 8 miles and nobody there has a helicopter. Successful career is impossible without education so hopefully, that people in Havasupai will get what they want and deserve! Milana from">Top Resumes Writers company.


cardangeles 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you.. I heard about it but now I finally understand whats happening. I agree with comment above, lawsuit is fair. I have one friend, his parents live near Arizona, maybe I`ll ask them about it. I think I should">write about it. Thank you again for this information.


GregoryW 2 years, 3 months ago

Thanks a lot for posting. It will help me to finish my thesis in time. I was looking for this file for a few days. I even thought to ask for the help from">resumes writers or at least a few chapters of it. And you know, it was a really great option for me.


ruthmalkin 1 year, 10 months ago

Now, the education of children in small populations is a global problem. Even if such schools are not staffed, children need education. Yes, it is difficult to find a teacher who would venture to settle in a small village in the mountains. In this case it is necessary to use">federal resume writer service. But any way it is worth at least to provide children with access to books. Such problems should be solved at the administrative level.


addisonsophia 1 year, 4 months ago

This is heartbreaking to read. I hope earnestly that the nine students can get the federal government to see their case in the proper light. They sound like they need">help with assignments online often. More Americans need to back these young kids and their parents. Only then can this nation be great again.