Have you ever heard the saying “give them and inch they take a mile?” Six refugees are suing a Pennsylvania school district, they claim they were dumped into a disciplinary school. They also claim they are being denied access to a quality education. I wonder what quality education they were receiving in their native Somalia or their part of Africa. The students, range in age from 17 to 21. They are from Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burma. The refugees had hoped to enter McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa., but were sent to Phoenix Academy, which is an alternative high school for “underachieving” students in the district.
The complaint alleges, Phoenix operates “more like a detention center” than a school, Elise Chesson, a program manager said. Attorneys for the Lancaster school district, however, say the characterizations of Phoenix Academy are overblown and that it’s “not the prison some people would make it out to be.” These refugee students are being represented by the Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union, now claims the refugees have been “traumatized” by security measures at Phoenix Academy, including pat-downs and property searches. This is unusual to me since no doubt they come from an area where security is an issue.
“The refugees who have fled war, violence, and persecution from their native countries,” the lawsuit says. “Having finally escaped their turbulent environment to resettle in America, these young immigrants yearn to learn English and get an education so they can make a life for themselves.”
“Our clients have already experienced much trauma and loss before arriving in this country,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Rather than helping them make the difficult adjustment by providing educational resources required by law, the school district has denied them an education completely or forced them into an alternative school, where they are often bullied and don’t learn.”
Somali refugee Qasim Hassan told the court through an interpreter, “I did not find the school that I deserved,” PennLive reported. I don’t know if he meant to say deserve. It seems to me these refugee students who have decided to suing the school district is the way to get what ‘they deserve’ have it all wrong. This is America, and in America we don’t deserve anything. We work hard for everything. Public School is where everyone goes, unless you pay for a private education. In most cases the state determines what public school you go to. Obviously the School district of Pennsylvania felt these high school students coming from an uncivilized area of the world needed an atmosphere with a strict code of conduct.
Damaris Rau, hit back on those allegations. Describing the benefit to students that Phoenix provides, the school district’s superintendent said:
“The intention of the Phoenix program is to accelerate kids’ credits so that they can get back — and we have tons of kids who go back to [the public high school] McCaskey — and graduate on time,” Rau said, according to Pennsylvania National Public Radio station WPSU. “So I think they’re doing a really good job, and it’s a shame that it’s come to this.”
Further, the school district’s attorney, Sharon O’Donnell, placed the blame on the plaintiffs for not asking for the help they need at Phoenix. Hassan and his fellow plaintiffs are seeking an injunction that would allow them to transfer to and possibly graduate from McCaskey High School.
The school district claims that Phoenix Academy is better suited to the needs of older refugee students than the larger and more traditional McCaskey High School. I for one agree with the school district. There are other children to take in to consideration. The children who already live in Pennsylvania should not be subjected to angry or rebellious refugees in their classrooms. What is your opinion? Given the fact that refugee students who come from a war torn area are at risk for bad behavior, should they be admitted directly into the high school? Is suing the Pennsylvania school district the right thing to do? Do refugee students deserve to be enrolled directly into the public high school of their choice? Comment below. I would love to hear your opinion on this one.