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Havasupai students who sued for better education reach settlement with federal government

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A federal judge approved a settlement between the federal Bureau of Indian Education and a group of Havasupai students who sued for better schooling, marking the first concrete result in a long-running case that could improve education for thousands of Native American students with disabilities. 



a sign on the side of a building: In 2017, Havasupai students and families sued the BIE for “longstanding educational deprivations.” A judge ruled in an ongoing case that the BIE violated its responsibility to provide students with disabilities education through services like individualized special education plans.


© Alden Woods/The Republic
In 2017, Havasupai students and families sued the BIE for “longstanding educational deprivations.” A judge ruled in an ongoing case that the BIE violated its responsibility to provide students with disabilities education through services like individualized special education plans.

The suit was filed in January 2017 by students and their families at Havasupai Elementary School, which sits on the Havasupai reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It accused the federally operated school of “longstanding educational deprivations,” including chronic understaffing that forced educators to cover as many as three grades at once and the denial of special education services.

The settlement resolves only the claims centered on the education provided to students with disabilities. It makes permanent a newly developed BIE policy that ensures all students with disabilities in BIE-operated schools have equal access to their education, requires an independent monitor to review the school’s compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and provides all 12 student plaintiffs $20,000 for compensatory educational services. 

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Section 504 bans discrimination against students with disabilities, and requires that schools provide accommodations to ensure those students have access to an equal education. 

“This historic agreement has paved a path forward for my three children to have educational opportunities they were deprived of at Havasupai Elementary School,” Billie P., the mother of three students named in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “While nothing can ever make up for

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New education partnership secures federal funding for Whitecap students

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a group of people sitting at a table: Saskatoon Public Schools' Board Chair Colleen MacPherson and Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear sign an  agreement supporting their ongoing education partnership.


© Provided by Star Phoenix
Saskatoon Public Schools’ Board Chair Colleen MacPherson and Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear sign an agreement supporting their ongoing education partnership.

A new agreement between Whitecap Dakota First Nation, the Saskatoon public school division and the federal government provides federal funding to support Whitecap students.

The tripartite education agreement, signed on Tuesday morning, builds on an existing partnership between the First Nation and the school division that’s been in place since 2014.

The original partnership, extended by another five years in 2019, formalizes decades of collaboration between the division and Whitecap.

The school division operates the pre-Kindergarten to Grade 4 Charles Red Hawk Elementary School, located on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. It’s the first on-reserve school to be part of a Saskatchewan school division.

Once students reach Grade 5, they are transported to Chief Whitecap School in Saskatoon’s Stonebridge neighbourhood, then to a public high school.

The agreement means federal money will provide funding to support that partnership. In doing so, it contributes to work being done to combat disparities in education, Whitecap Chief Darcy Bear said.

That includes ensuring all Whitecap students have access to language and culture programming.

Indigenous Services Canada has provided about $1,500 per student in language and culture resources, but it was only accessible for people on reserve. Under the new partnership, it also reaches Whitecap students learning in Saskatoon.

“This signing today solidifies that … the money for language and culture can now travel with those students,” Bear said.

School board chair Colleen MacPherson said the “standout” partnership is a step toward ensuring all students can reach their fullest potential.

“I know what we’re signing here today will positively impact the future of our students, not only in school, but as they grow into their roles