ACLU threatens to sue Harrisburg School District

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Community Justice Project are again threatening to sue the Harrisburg Area School District.

They say the district’s new admission guidelines take aim at refugees and deny their opportunity to go to school.

“Back in February, we sent a letter to the school district demanding that they enroll our clients, who were four refugee children that should’ve been in kindergarten and first grade but were not due to this policy,” said Marielle Macher of the Community Justice Group.

The school district later enrolled the children in March. According to the civil rights groups, the district only enrolls students during the school year if they’re coming from a compatible school program or receiving early intervention services.

“They’re coming from countries that are torn by war, where the education system can be very different or sometimes nonexistent,” Macher said.

The district says their admission policy regarding student refugees is lawful. In a statement, it said, “The district cannot simply enroll any child for whom enrollment is sought.”

“Both Pennsylvania as well as federal law make clear that these children must be admitted, period,” Macher said.

The district changed its policy this week, saying it will consider “extraordinary or other circumstances related where, whether inside or outside of the United States of America, the child was located or resided prior to residing in the district.”

“We are disappointed that it still does not guarantee admission to these students. It’s not clear cut in saying, ‘yes we will accept these students’,” Macher said.

The ACLU and the Community Justice Project say they will sue the district if other refugee students are denied in the future.

The Harrisburg School District says this is unfortunate and unfair. The district said it worked with the ACLU to address the concerns earlier this year.

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