School District of Lancaster settles refugee lawsuit, ending legal battle with ACLU
March 29, 2017 – LancasterOnline – by Kimberly Marselas
The School District of Lancaster has agreed to settle a lawsuit over how it handles older refugee students, ending a nine-month battle with the American Civil Liberties Union at a cost of more than $400,000.
Starting immediately, refugees ages 17 to 21 who speak little to no English will attend McCaskey High School with the option of enrolling in an accelerated credit program at the privately run Phoenix Academy.
All who opt to enroll at McCaskey will spend at least one marking period in a “newcomer” program for non-English speaking students. Once they’ve proven basic English proficiency, refugee students can move into other academically themed, small-learning communities open to all students.
“We don’t take this as a loss,” Superintendent Damaris Rau said Tuesday night, after the school board voted 8-0 in favor of a settlement. “We have always been willing to make our programs better and better. … We want to grow. We can’t do that if we’re constantly in a court battle.”
A class-action lawsuit brought forth last July by the ACLU and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania on behalf of six students alleged the district warehoused older refugee students at Phoenix Academy, denying them a “meaningful and equal education” due under federal and state law.