Immediate Release Ninth Circuit Hearing in Appeal of Landmark Native Education Rights Case


CONTACT: Rekha Radhakrishnan, Public Counsel, 832-628-2312, 


Ninth Circuit Hearing in Appeal of Landmark Native Education Rights Case

Brought by Havasupai Students

What: Students at Havasupai Elementary School are heading to court on February 9,2022 to press forward on their appeal to hold the federal Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) accountable for following their own regulations and providing basic educational services. Havasupai Elementary School, located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, is operated by the BIE and enrolls approximately 65 students. The school has consistently failed to meet the minimum regulatory requirements. For example, the school lacks teachers to teach even basic academic subjects like science and social studies and there is no physical education, Native language or extracurricular activities for students to participate in. Students are not provided with adequate instruction time or materials to meet the educational standards for their grade. During the Covid-19 pandemic, and over a year after the students reached a partial settlement with the BIE over the rights of Havasupai students with disabilities, the situation has remained dire. Almost no in-person instruction has been provided for almost two years; the remote instruction for most students is currently less than four hours per week, with many students lacking access to appropriate internet connectivity and devices. Now, five years after filing the original lawsuit, the students’ fight to obtain the education the federal government promised them, continues. The Ninth Circuit appeal focuses on the specific mandates in the BIE’s own regulations setting forth the discrete actions the BIE must take to provide elementary and secondary education, and the ability to hold the BIE accountable for its failures. The appeal also addresses the legal standing of the plaintiffs who no longer attend the schoolbut are still suffering the consequences of the inadequate education they received at Havasupai Elementary School and now seek to access compensatory educational services.

When: Wednesday, February 9, 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time

Where: Oral arguments will be remote and streamed live:

If you are unable to join the hearing, please reach out to media contact for information. Who: Counsel for Plaintiffs (students in Stephen C v Bureau of Indian Education) and Counsel for Bureau of Indian Education will present arguments in front of Chief Judge Murguia, Judge Graber and Judge Fitzwater.

Why: This argument will be the first time a federal court articulates the duties of the BIE to fulfill their obligation to provide basic education to Native students. It also gives the students who were at Havasupai an opportunity to receive compensatory education to help address learning gaps that could have a vital impact on their futures.

The following are additional comments from:

Billie P., parent of Student Plaintiffs, Durell P., Taylor P. and Freddy P.“I have been fighting for my children’s educations at the Havasupai Elementary School for as long as I can remember. It started with Durell P. not getting the education he was entitled to receive. Now, I am fighting for Taylor P. and Freddy P. who are getting even less than Durell P. did. I will never stop speaking up for my children and holding the BIE accountable for educating them.”

Tara Ford, Senior Counsel Opportunity Under Law Project, Public Counsel “Like children throughout the country, the children in Havasupai have unique interests and gifts– they are the hope for our future. And they too deserve to go to school, to have teachers and to be provided instruction and educational services.."

Alexis DeLaCruz, Attorney with the Native American Disability Law Center “Month after month, year after year, members of the Havasupai community including Tribal leaders, School Board members, grandparents, parents and guardians have stood shoulder to shoulder to amplify their concerns to the BIE about the lack of learning its students receive at the hands of the federal government. Now, the community is bringing its chorus of voices to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to place its hopes for accountability and an opportunity to have the BIE answer to these wrongs. We are proud to stand up with this community as their courageous battle for education continues.”###