Student Discrimination In America: US School District Sued For Denying Education To Immigrants & Refugees

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald July 20, 10:13 am
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A third school district in the United States has been sued by civil rights lawyers for denying education to immigrant and refugee students. This district allegedly directs these pupils to alternative and disciplinary high schools instead.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lancaster School District in Pennsylvania rejected at least 30 students over the course of three years and sent them to disciplinary high schools instead, ABC News reported. The students, who have stayed in refugee camps for years, wanted the classes and services provided by traditional high schools.

Refugees & Immigrants Sent To Low-Performing Schools

Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director of Pennsylvania's ACLU, filed the suit on Tuesday, July 19, alongside the Education Law Center and Pepper Hamilton LLP, according to LancasterOnline. The plaintiffs, who are refugees aged 17 to 21, came to the U.S. from Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, and other nations struggling with war and poverty.

The students are being sent to Phoenix Academy, which was criticized by the young refugees because of its poor educational environment and bullying. The immigrants and refugee students want to go to McCaskey, the district's regular high school that has higher school performance ratings than Phoenix Academy.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against Utica, New York and in Collier County, Florida, ABC News further reported. Those were filed by civil rights groups as well.

Desire To Learn English

The students involved in the lawsuit don't speak English, which is why they want to attend McCaskey High School and undergo its transitional program designed for English learners. The complaint claimed that Phoenix Academy's English language instruction is shorter, doesn't prioritize individual students, and don't have certified teachers for English as a Second Language.

Walczak said immigrant and refugee students will be more successful integrating themselves into the American society if they properly learn English and interact with American pupils. The district of Lancaster attributes the increase of immigrant and refugees to resettlement programs.

Seventeen percent of Lancaster's 11,300 students are English language learners. Refugee students comprise 4.5 percent.

Pennsylvania's law offers free public education to children aged between six and 21. Those aged 17 to 21 are made to attend an accelerated credit program in Phoenix Academy because they don't have enough credits to graduate on time. District spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder said Pennsylvania's goal is to ensure that students will graduate by the time they turn 21 years old.

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