/ Modified apr 3, 2018 5:22 p.m.

Court Rules in Favor of Havasupai Students in Education Suit

The historic decision sets precedent, recognizes impact of historical, intergenerational trauma.

A federal court in Arizona has ruled the Bureau of Indian Education must educate Native American children and address their mental health needs, a historic decision that sets a precedent for other tribes.

Havasupai students and the Native American Disability Law Center sued the federal Bureau of Indian Education so it would provide adequate teachers, special education and mental health services. The Havasupai Elementary school currently has three teachers to educate 70 students at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Havasupai Chairwoman Muriel Coochwytewa said the federal government has an obligation to Native communities.

"Our children do not receive even minimal sufficient education. The consequences are dire for our children, for our community and for our future," Coochwytewa said.

Kathryn Eidmann, an attorney representing the students, said the court has recognized that exposure to trauma has an impact on the way children learn, and that the sets a precedent for other tribes and marginalized communities.

"Young people in this community are subject to decades of deprivation of educational opportunities, extreme poverty, separation from caregivers because of boarding schools. As well as violence in the community and substance abuse in the community," Eidmann said.

The court’s ruling recognizes for the first time in U.S. history that exposure to historical, intergenerational trauma has an impact on the way kids learn.

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
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