Trial Starts Over Refugee Student Enrollment In Lancaster

Aug 18, 2016

 

In this file image, an older student refugee from Tanzania completes a spelling exercise.
Credit Ed Zurga / AP

As many as 700 refugees are resettled each year in Lancaster, a high number for the city's population.

Four of them are spending today in court, where they'll testify in a lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster.

The suit alleges the district’s breaking the law by refusing to admit older teen refugees or automatically diverting them to an accelerated credit program. There, the case claims, they get an education inferior to what’s available at the local public high school (particularly when it comes to English language instruction.)

But attorney Sharon O’Donnell, who’s representing the school, says “the bottom line is whether the court can tell the [Lancaster] school board where to place students.”

Pennsylvania school code says residents between 6 and 21 years old are entitled to a free public education. At least one international treaty, the U.N.'s 1951 Refugee Convention, requires refugees to get the same public education as residents of countries where they’re resettled.

The lawsuit also alleges civil rights and federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act violations by the school, which O’Donnell refuted in recent court filings.

We previously reported on the case details, and went a bit more in depth with a discussion on Smart Talk recently.

Find more of this report on the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads