Dozens of students told they can’t re-enroll in Puyallup Tribe school

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Dozens of South Sound families are scrambling to find new schools for their kids to attend this fall.

Chief Leschi Schools said their facilities are overcrowded, meaning nearly 90 students won’t be allowed to return this year.

“I feel like it was unfair,” said Breanna McNeece, whose 10-year-old son has attended Chief Leschi for four years.  “He’s been going there since kindergarten.”

Last week. McNeece received a letter from the school saying her son Roland wouldn’t be allowed to re-enroll this school year.

The letter said Roland wasn’t qualified to enroll because he’s not a registered member of a Native American tribe.

McNeece said her family shares heritage with the Cherokee Nation, but registering her son in the tribe has been hard.

“My mother, Ruth, has tried several times enrolling in the Cherokee Nation, which is our main tribe; it’s been quite difficult,” she said.

Chief Leschi Schools said classrooms are overcrowded, citing nearly 20 percent of last year’s student body were not registered with a Native American tribe. The Federal Bureau of Indian Education spends about $5,000 per registered student to help pay for their education.

But for kids like Roland who aren’t registered with a tribe, paying for his education has to come from the school’s operating budget. So the school sent out letters to families like his, warning them that nearly 75 students they too would not be allowed to re-enroll next year.

“I think that it’s just not right,” said Roland.

That means during the few remaining days before most schools open, McNeece said, she had to scramble to find a new school for Roland.

“It’s been difficult trying to get him into a different school,” she said.

McNeece also worries for the scores of other parents who have to come up with a new last minute plan for their children’s education. She also wished that officials at Chief Leschi Schools could have warned her sooner.

“They could have told us at the end of last year, to give us more preparation time to find a new school,” she said.

McNeece said she has appealed the school’s decision to not re-enroll her son; in the meantime, Roland has been registered in a public school. She hopes hoping next year Roland can go back to Chief Leschi.