The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America

Beacon. Apr. 2021. 248p. ISBN 9780807024980. $25.95. SOC SCI
In August 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Lancaster, PA, school district on behalf of two Sudanese refugees, Khadidja Issa and Mahamed Hassan, and four other immigrant students, for failing to provide the quality education required by law. Napolitano, a longtime journalist specializing in public education issues, tells the stories of Khadidja and Mahamed with care. The two students wanted to attend Lancaster’s highly regarded McCaskey High School, but instead they were assigned to the for-profit Phoenix Academy, an institution that offered few learning opportunities for non-native English speakers. They were not allowed to take books out of the building and were subject to daily pat-downs. A bullying culture, inflamed by corporal punishment, prevailed. Napolitano discusses the students’ lives in Sudan and the dangers of that many refugees and immigrants face in the U.S. The most illuminating chapters describe the courtroom action and introduce Judge Edward G. Smith and Vic Walczak and Eric Rothschild, the attorneys advocating for the students.
VERDICT This uplifting story, which played out during bleak years for refugees in the U.S., will resonate with readers concerned about immigration and education policy, and those engaged by courtroom narratives.
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