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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