Education Law Center

"In America, if you don't get an education, you'll have a very hard life..." 
Dear Friend, 
 
When Khadidja arrived in Pennsylvania in 2015, she had spent most of her life in refugee camps after escaping turmoil and persecution in war-torn Darfur, Sudan. Being offered asylum in the U.S. was a wonderful beacon of hope - for peace, for safety, and for education. For Khadidja, the promise of a real education was especially exciting. Her only prior schooling had been limited lessons within the refugee camps.
 
But when Khadidja's family was resettled in Lancaster, she was originally denied enrollment in school. At age 18, the District deemed her "too old" - despite clear state law entitling students to attend school until age 21. And when ultimately enrolled, she was denied a place in the regular public high school - one with an international program designed to meet the needs of newly arrived English Language Learner (ELL) students.
 
Instead, Khadidja was diverted to an inferior, privately-operated alternative school. Its accelerated English-only classes were impossible for Khadidja to understand and she was not offered sufficient support to learn English. More traumatizing still, each day began with a full body "pat down" frisk of students.
 
Khadidja wasn't alone. ELC learned that there were other immigrant students who were diverted to the same alternative school - or never enrolled in school at all. ELC joined with ACLU-PA and pro bono counsel Pepper Hamilton to file a federal class action lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster for its failure to provide immigrant ELLs the educational services they are entitled to under state and federal law - and to seek the immediate enrollment of Khadidja and others in the District's regular high school.
"In America, if you don't get an education, you'll have a very hard life... I don't just want to [graduate], I want to receive an actual education. Now even if I graduate, I know nothing."

Khadidja, in federal court testimony
For now, Khadidja's story has a happy ending. The court granted the preliminary injunction in August, requiring that Khadidja and the other named plaintiffs be enrolled in the regular public high school with appropriate English-as-a-Second-Language support. Today she is enjoying school and rapidly increasing her English language skills.

But ELC is still on the case. The School District of Lancaster appealed the ruling to the Third Circuit, and our team presented oral argument in early December to defend the district court's order that the named plaintiffs have the right to attend the regular school and receive effective language services. Through Khadidja's case, we also seek to protect the rights of a larger class of immigrant students who are similarly discriminated against by the District.
 
Khadidja's case is like many others that ELC pursues every year on behalf of children across Pennsylvania who are denied access to quality public education. Each one highlights our commitment to fight for fairness, equal access, and quality public education for every child.
 
Now more than ever, ELC's legal advocacy work is needed to protect the educational rights of thousands of children, like Khadidja, across Pennsylvania.

I hope you will consider supporting ELC with a generous year-end gift to make our work possible.
 
I wish you all the best for the holiday season.
 
Sincerely,
 
Deborah Gordon Klehr
Executive Director
 
p.s. Please give as generously as you can by December 31st by donating online at  www.elc-pa.org/donate. Thank you!
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A copy of the Education Law Center's official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.  
Ensuring access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania
 
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