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Arizona tribe members settle education claims in lawsuit

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Members of a small Arizona tribe have reached an agreement with the federal government to partly resolve a lawsuit that sought widespread reform in the agency responsible for educating Native Americans.

Attorneys for Havasupai parents and students say the agreement reached in late September will help thousands of Native Americans who attend U.S. Bureau of Indian Education schools across the country.

A federal court had already determined that the bureau violated its duty to ensure access to special education, therapists and mental health services, including for trauma and childhood adversity. The agreement means a trial that was set to begin in November to consider the remedy for the violations won’t happen.


“They weren’t providing services for my kids, and they kind of dismissed them,” the mother of three students who are identified in the lawsuit by only their first names told The Associated Press. “I thought all of the kids could be struggling with the same thing, and I wanted to make sure that BIE was held accountable.”

The Bureau of Indian Education did not respond to emails requesting comment. The federal government has said the challenges at Havasupai Elementary School, which lies on the tribe’s reservation deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon, are unique and difficult — if not impossible — to overcome. The reservation is accessible only by foot, mule or helicopter.

Alexis DeLaCruz with the Native American Disability Law Center said the case is a landmark one for educational civil rights on behalf of Native Americans.

“When it was originally filed, it was the first time a group of students and their families stood together with the Native American Disability Law Center to address the wholesale denial of educational opportunities for students attending BIE schools,” said DeLaCruz, an attorney for the