Indigenous Education Now Coalition Submits Formal Complaint to US Department of Education Against LAUSD


Contact: Jennifer Cuevas



Los Angeles, Calif. (April 21, 2020)– The Indigenous Education Now Coalition (IEN), comprised of Tribes, Native organizations and students, parents, and community members, filed a formal complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on April 17, for failure to comply with federal law requiring tribal consultation with tribes and tribal organizations.

“The Coalition calls upon the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that the LAUSD properly consults with local Indian tribes and organizations, and respond to the COVID-19 crisis exacerbating historic neglect of Native students,” said Chrissie Castro, Co-Founder and Senior Adviser of the California Native Vote Project (CNVP).

“Proper consultation with all the local tribes is long overdue, as the first people of Los Angeles, we are always forgotten, never given the respect to provide our vital input to the required education plan relating to American Indian Education. We, the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians trace our ancestry to a coalition of lineages originating in the Simi, Santa Clarita, Antelope, and San Fernando Valleys where we feel our true voice needs to be presented in the required education plan,” said Rudy Ortega, Jr., Tribal President, Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

“As a Tongva woman, it's been my life work to educate people about our history and culture. As an educator, I believe in the need to conduct consultation in order to create a culturally competent curricula throughout LAUSD, that does not further traumatize and contribute to the erasure of our peoples," said Julia Bogany, Gabrieleno Tongva Cultural Officer.

Further exacerbating the issue is the COVID-19 global pandemic, which disproportionately impacts Native students within LAUSD; given the lack of adequate programming, resources and staffing designed to address the unique needs of Native American students. The district has not made any data available on how the crisis has impacted Native and Indigenous students, further adding to the historic erasure of Native experiences.

The complaint highlights, among other evidence, Section 8538 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA or Act), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), that requires that educational agencies (LEA) like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) “shall consult” with appropriate officials from Indian tribes or tribal organizations approved by tribes prior to the LEA’s submission of a required plan or application for a covered program under the Act, or for a program under Title VI of the Act (relating to Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education).

The Act further requires that, “Such consultation must be done in a manner and in such time that provides the opportunity for such appropriate officials from Indian tribes or tribal organizations to meaningfully and substantively contribute to such plan.” (20 U.S.C § 7918.) “Appropriate officials” means tribal officials who are elected, or appointed tribal leaders or officials designated in writing by an Indian tribe for the specific consultation purpose under 20 U.S.C. §7918(c)(2).

“LAUSD has spent billions of dollars of federal funding and enacted onerous local administrative policies since the adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act without any tribal consultation. Our action today is a reaffirmation of our self-determination and unity as Indigenous Peoples living in Los Angeles, each with our distinct languages, cultures and nations whose children also have a human right to dignity,” said Marcos Aguilar, Executive Director of Anahuacalmecac World School.

“Los Angeles County has the largest county population of American Indian and Alaska Native alone-or-in-combination populations (2010 Census) in the entire country, and LAUSD serves hundreds, if not thousands of American Indian/Alaska Native students. For too long, Native students have been overlooked. The district has not adequately invested in Native students for generations. This lack of support can be seen in the limited data that is collected on AI/AN students and the lack of attention given to the systemic failures impacting so many Native students and the community-at large” said Celestina Castillo, Executive Director of California Native Vote Project.

In response to historic disparity and inequities faced by Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Indigenous students, the IEN formed more than one year ago gravely concerned about the health, well-being and future of Indigenous students and how their lives are impacted by public schools. Recognizing the relationship among poverty, mental health, and educational disadvantages in public schooling, the Coalition centers upon student, parent and community voice to address these issues.

About Indigenous Education Now Coalition

The IEN is comprised of the Gabrieleno Tongva Band of Mission Indians, Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Missions Indians, California Native Vote Project, Anahuacalmecac World School, UCLA American Indian Studies Center, Pukuu Cultural Community Services, United American Indian Involvement Clubhouse, and American Indian Community Council, as well as students, parents and community members from throughout the community.