English-Language Learners A National Roundup

Somali Students in Minn. Allege Mistreatment By Alternative School

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 27, 2005 1 min read

Thirteen Somali youths have filed a lawsuit alleging that an alternative school holding a contract with the Minneapolis school district violated state and federal laws by discriminating against them.

“You won’t see this stuff outside of Charles Dickens,” said Daniel Shulman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “They are just warehousing these people until they are too old to be in the system.”

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 20 in the federal district court in Minneapolis, alleges that Abraham Lincoln High School, now called Lincoln International High School, failed to appropriately help the students learn English, didn’t properly evaluate them to see if they had disabilities, and misinformed them about graduation requirements.

An investigation by the Minnesota Department of Education found some of those allegations to be true, according to the lawsuit.

Joel Gibson, the executive director for the Institute for New Americans, which runs the 226-student school, said the school had already made some changes to respond to the allegations, first made public by the students in February.

It’s not true, Mr. Gibson said, that students weren’t well informed of their graduation status. At the end of each semester, they get a sheet telling them where they stand, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2005 edition of Education Week

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