Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘school for refugee children’ Category

Refugee boy repeatedly brutalized at Philly school, complaints to school officials fall on deaf ears

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 21, 2011

Once again a school in Philadelphia is the subject of a case involving a refugee child beaten so badly that he had to go to a hospital. A year ago 30 Asian refugee children went to the hospital after just one bullying incident. Now, a Liberian refugee father claims that his pleas to a teacher and principal about the regular beatings of his 6-year-old son brought no relief, and that a phone call and later letter to the district superintendent also got no
An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer explains the story:

At first, Gbahtuo Comgbaye, a West African immigrant, was more puzzled than worried when his 6-year-old son started coming home from school with bruises on his chest and neck.

His concern turned to alarm on a mid-September morning as he helped his child, Menduawor, get dressed for the day. The boy tearfully asked, “If my friends beat me up, and hurt me, and wanted to kill me, would you do something about it?”

The story that emerged: Menduawor, a slight, soft-spoken boy, was being routinely beaten by three bigger first-grade classmates at Patterson School in Southwest Philadelphia. They told him, “We don’t like your name.”…

…Comgbaye described his growing horror as his son came home from school bruised and shaken day after day. He said that his pleas to the teacher and principal brought no relief and that a phone call and subsequent letter to the district superintendent got no response.

At the end of September, the boy was beaten so severely that his mother took him to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Hospital records show Menduawor was treated for chest and abdominal injuries, which physician Sarah Wood wrote were caused by blows from a person or object...Read more here

Posted in abuse, children, dangerous neighborhoods, Liberian, Philadelphia, safety, school for refugee children, schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee student excels in school, though resettlement agency did not enroll him right away

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 6, 2011

A refugee student, now in college in Tucson, is excelling in school after making the honor roll and graduating from high school with a GPA above 3.5. Hussein Magale said that his refugee resettlement agency did not enroll him in school right away, so he had to enroll in school by himself. He took 10 courses, including advanced placement classes, in his first and only semester of high school in the US. An Arizona Daily Wildcat article tells his story:

…Hussein Magale, who fled Somalia with his family in 1992 because of the country’s civil war, lived in the city’s camp for most of his life. The biochemistry sophomore, who speaks three languages, began translating for Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization helping his camp, when he was a teenager…

…Magale said he always excelled in class and valued education because it was the only way out of the camp…

…To receive the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education, or KCPE, Magale said he had to place in the top 100 out of more than 600 students in his group taking the high school entrance exam…He was number 23.

Magale said he continued to excel in high school until he arrived in Tucson in November 2009 through a United Nations resettlement program…

…Dualeh said the agency that brought him here did not enroll him in school right away. So Magale took the initiative, called around and filled out the paperwork. A few months after he left Kenya’s refugee camps, he was already taking classes at Catalina High School.

He took 10 courses, including advanced placement classes, in his first and only semester of high school in the U.S. He made the honor roll and graduated with
a GPA above 3.5…

…Magale’s GPA is still well above a 3.5, he’s part of the Arizona Assurance Scholars Club, captain of a soccer team… Read more here

Posted in Arizona, failure to enroll refugee children in school, school for refugee children, schools, Somali, teenagers, Tucson | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Refugees vote for resettlement locations with their feet

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 18, 2011

While the State Department and their private resettlement agency partners continue to resettle refugees to large urban environments – many in dangerous neighborhoods with expensive, roachy apartments and poor schools – refugees continue to out-migrate. Lynn, Massachusetts and Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs are two areas seeing fairly heavy secondary migration (Lynn is also a primary refugee resettlement site). NPR’s WBUR has the details about Lynn.

LYNN, Mass. — With ts cheaper rentals and abundance of public housing, the city of Lynn has become a magnet for families displaced by an ailing economy. This includes a growing number of immigrants — many of whom are refugees seeking a better life…

…the population has grown by almost a third. The city has become a popular destination because of its access to public assistance programs and to public housing.

Lynn is also one of the few cities in Massachusetts where the United Nations High Commission for Refugees relocates people from all over the world. Families who have endured war and famine come from countries as far away as Sudan, Bhutan and Iraq… Read more here

Chicago Public Media WBEZ explains the situation in the Chicago area. Although Chicago’s suburbs are home to established Iraqi populations, resettlement agencies like Heartland Alliance and RefugeeONE continue to resettle Iraqis into the intercity away from their already established relatives:

The Uptown neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side is an established hub for refugee resettlement. There are many agencies there, and refugees opt to live nearby. But recently more refugees bypass Chicago altogether and head to the north and northwest suburbs instead. Those communities are discovering these new populations in their schools, and suburban educators are having to adjust to meet the unique needs of their newest arrivals…

WANGERIN: We were seeing fewer and fewer Iraqis actually come to our office and avail of our services.

Greg Wangerin is with RefugeeONE, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He started to notice the difference in 2007, when the number of Iraqi refugees spiked. Now, Iraqis are the largest group of refugees coming to the Chicago area.

WANGERIN: We began to examine why, and we noticed that this was the circumstance, again because they were coming to reunite with relatives up in that area.

Chicago’s suburbs are home to established Iraqi populations. They came as a result of the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s, and Operation Desert Storm in the 90s. Wangerin says there are other reasons Iraqi refugees are heading to suburbs… Read more here

Posted in Boston, Chicago, dangerous neighborhoods, Heartland Alliance, Iraqi, RefugeeONE (formerly, Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Ministries), RefugeeONE (formerly, Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Ministries), school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, refugee, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

After Nashville school district’s civil rights violation, foreign-language speaking students now desgregated

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 7, 2011

The Nashville school district is beginning to make progress on helping foreign-language speaking students learn English after a 2008 state Civil Rights Office violation for segregating the students to classes where they were unable to learn English from peers. An article in The Tennessean tells more.

…Throughout Metro Nashville Public schools, these stories are becoming more common as refugees from Africa and Asia and immigrants from Mexico and Central America show up at the schoolhouse gate. Nashville has more of these students than the state’s other three largest districts combined.

Students whose first language isn’t English were 15 percent of Metro’s public school enrollment in 2005. They’re 22 percent today. The majority require special services that, a decade ago, local educators barely knew existed. In 2008, after a state Office of Civil Rights violation over foreign-language speakers’ treatment, the district was forced to rethink its approach…

…Fixing violations

Lumping together foreign-language speakers for classes was an Office of Civil Rights violation, uncovered by a state official checking how Metro educated its immigrant students. The state allows nine models for teaching English Language Learners, and none allow a district to keep students together all day for longer than one year.

“The segregation of any students is wrong,” said Linda DePriest, assistant superintendent for instructional support, who now oversees the Office of English Learners. “Children learn just as much from their peers as their lessons. We deny them that if their peers lack English skills.”

The district hired office Executive Director Nicole Chaput-Guiziani from Massachusetts, and she brought fresh ideas to the program. This school year, all English Language Learners take at least some classes with their mainstream peers and can stay in Newcomer Academies only one year.

Metro lagged in getting students out of English Language Learning services within five years — the time it takes the average student to learn enough English to succeed in school — and services varied among schools, the George Washington University study noted…

…The hope is that more students will learn on the proper grade level for their age faster — another challenge Metro faces. Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, a district fails if its English Language Learners don’t test on grade level in reading and math. From elementary to high school, the subgroup has missed benchmarks in Metro three out of the past four years… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of Tennessee, children, language, Nashville, reform, school for refugee children, schools, teenagers, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s going on with Sudanese youth?

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 7, 2010

There is an interesting article in the Alternet about the Sudanese community in Nebraska. This is the single largest group of former Sudanese refugees in the US. Many of the Sudanese youth are fighting and joining gangs. Reasons for this disturbing trend include their families’ migration from a homeland in conflict, a difficult to adapt to (completely different from their own) US culture, parents who no longer discipline their children due to US laws against beating children, to youth dropping out of school after schools place them in grades way above their education level. In addition this second generation of immigrants has learned English much more rapidly than their parents and are able to manipulate their parents’ interaction with other members of the community, such as school officials and the police.

..early 8,000 miles away from the violence in Darfur [and southern Sudan], Sudanese residents of Omaha are experiencing their own share of turbulence in this unassuming Midwestern city. And they’re fed up with it…

…Bruce Ferrell, a retired Omaha police officer, is the chairman of the Midwest Gang Investigators Association estimates that there are three Sudanese gangs in Omaha right now (More claims there are fourteen.) Ferrell said the first gangs in Omaha began in 2004–MJ, a Nuer acronym for “Dog Pussy,” and Afrikan Pride. Others followed, like MOB, GBLOCK, 402 (the area code for eastern Nebraska), South Sudan Soldiers, and TripSet. Gang members are mostly Nuer and Dinka, and, predictably, live in low-income neighborhoods. They are the children of refugees or are refugees themselves, coming from camps in Ethiopia, Egypt, and beyond, but ending up adrift in the middle of America…

…”They’re doing graffiti, they’re wearing colors, they’re identifying by specific group names, they’re participating in crimes that are against rival Sudanese gangs. We’re seeing that more [in the past year].”… Read more here

I think what is good about South Sudanese is that they have a strong identity and pride in their culture. Sometimes pride can also be a downfall – for us all – as in the old proverb “pride does often go before the fall”, but I think what’s happening here is a generation who doesn’t yet know who they are. Are they South Sudanese or America? Trapped between? Its a hard road to travel.

Posted in alienation-isolation, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, men, mental health, Nebraska, Omaha, police, school for refugee children, South Sudanese, suicide, teenagers, teens, young adults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fredericksburg School Board asks Virginia governor to halt resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 23, 2010

It was two weeks ago that the Catholic Diocese of Arlington announced they were resuming refugee resettlement to Fredericksburg, VA. Now, the Fredericksburg School Board has written a letter to the governor of Virginia asking him to halt resettlement to the city. A column by Emily Battle in the The Free Lance-Star gives more details.

Last week, Chelyen Davis and Kelly Hannon reported on a meeting the city School Board had about how the schools check on students’ residency status in Fredericksburg. They mentioned a letter the School Board sent last week to Gov. Bob McDonnell, urging him to help them stem the flow of refugees to the city’s small school system…

…In their letter, School Board members say they have been informed that 100 refugees are to be resettled in this region in the coming year, with half of them to be placed within the city limits. Because Fredericksburg has a smaller budget, fewer schools and fewer taxpayers than its neighboring localities, some city officials have tried to make the point to the resettlement office that the burden of this high-needs population should be more equitably spread among larger, wealthier localities.

The School Board makes some similar points in its letter to the governor, which you can read here

…The board members close by saying, “This locality simply cannot support them,” and urging the governor to encourage the resettlement office to help place refugee families in localities better equipped to meet their needs.

What, if any effect this letter has remains to be seen. Board members noted in their letter that past requests made directly to the agency responsible for resettlement have been followed by an increase in the flow of refugees to the city. Read more here

This issue tends to be most pronounced during recessions when the unemployment rate is high. During non-recession times the refugees are able to quickly join the workforce and offset the extra costs of schooling their kids with their contributions to the tax base.

Posted in capacity, Catholic, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, children, faith-based, fredericksburg, school for refugee children, schools, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Lack of ESL Teachers Hampers Education for Refugee Children

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 27, 2010

According to a November 2009 report from the Migration Policy Institute thirty states started the last school year with ESL teaching vacancies. For example, according to an article in the TRIBUNA newspaper the number of students in the state of Connecticut that speak limited or no English, including refugee students, has skyrocketed while the number of teachers qualified to teach them English has declined.

Statewide, the number of students in the state that speak limited or no English has exploded over the past decade, but the number of teachers trained to help them has actually declined.

Eight years ago, one of every 27 students in the state was classified as speaking very limited English; today the ratio is one in 18, a net gain of almost 9,000 students.

Meanwhile, the number of qualified teachers has dropped by more than 9 percent, from 850 to 772.

We have more students than we have staff to help them,” said Mark Mc- Quillan, the state’s education commissioner. “We have a problem to solve. … This is one of the neediest groups and we are not making much headway.”

The four-year high school graduation rate for students with limited English proficiency was 53.4 percent last year compared to 79.3 percent for all students, according to the State Department of Education.

Their test scores are also across-theboard way below their English-speaking peers. For example, just 18 percent of 10th grade students at Bridgeport Public Schools tested as proficient in math compared to 38 percent of all students being proficient statewide…

…The Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think-tank for immigrant integration, reports that the number of limited-English students nationwide has grown by 57 percent from 1996 to 2006.

The problem, their November 2009 report says, is there are not enough trained teachers in the U.S. to work with these students. Thirty states started the last school year with ESL teaching vacancies.

That was the case in Connecticut this school year. In a recent report, the Connecticut Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said hiring more qualified teachers for limited-English students is a key to closing the state education achievement gap… Read more here

The result here is that we have a lot of refugee children moving through the school system and either not graduating or graduating with poor knowledge and abilities, and none of that comes cheap. The two obstacles are a limited number of qualified teachers and not enough money to fund education for students that speak limited or no English. Who should pay these increased costs? The refugee program is a federal program and some argue that the federal government needs to start reimbursing local school districts for refugee children. Or should states absorb these costs since states voluntarily accept refugees for resettlement? (At least those that do not come on their own volition from other states.) Or should local school districts pay these costs since that is how we fund our schools? One way or another we should not let children grow up in this country without basic education.

This is another issue of refugee resettlement capacity that is often ignored when refugee resettlement agencies each year reflexively demand that a larger number of refugees be resettled than were resettled in the previous year. If the agencies’ lobbying group RCUSA had its way we would be accepting 100,000 refugees this fiscal year instead of the 80,000 that the Obama Administration authorized.

Posted in capacity, children, Connecticutt, funding, school for refugee children, schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Volunteers in Rochester Report Refugees Neglected by Catholic Family Center

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 14, 2010

Volunteers in Rochester, New York are not happy with Catholic Family Center (CFC), a USCCB affiliate. One volunteer contacted us and described the agency’s treatment of some of its refugee clients as “disgraceful” and “completely unhelpful”. Recently they “dumped” a Somali refugee family – would not return the family’s phone calls or give the family any appointments, and later the family became homeless.

In another case CFC placed a Burundian refugee family with nine kids in a neighborhood that has the highest murder rate in NY State. CFC told the family they had to rent a particular rundown apartment that rented for $765 a month, when the going rate in the neighborhood was much lower. The volunteer said that the rent for the apartment was more than most apartments on prime blocks in the best neighborhoods in economically depressed city.

The Burundian refugee family arrived around eleven month ago and had to wait two months before their children were registered for school. The volunteer also noted that the family didn’t seem to understand about answering the phone, making it difficult for any potential employer trying to call them. Apparently CFC’s cultural orientation had been somewhat less than helpful. She said the family didn’t understand dates, months, or hours, and that they couldn’t read letters from the welfare office threatening to cut off their benefits if they didn’t attend a meeting across town on a certain day. When a second volunteer went to the family’s apartment she found that they had no food. They said they ran out of food after having to barter some of their food stamps for other things they desperately needed, such as car rides.

The first volunteer said that after 8 months of being in Rochester the family still had no prospects for a job. The mother asked her to help them make calls since she and her husband speak almost no English. She also went with the woman’s husband to CFC during the walk in hours and spoke to the family’s case worker. She described the woman as being beyond rude to them and told them that the job search was not her problem since the family had been here more than six months. She referred them to another case manager – giving them his phone number, but saying that he was not yet available as he had just returned from Sudan. The volunteer said she then tried calling him twice a day for five days but that he did not respond. The refugee heard about a place that was hiring but he and the volunteer were unable to get his resume that he had on file with CFC, and the job opportunity was lost.

Posted in Burundian, Catholic, Catholic Family Center (Rochester), community/cultural orientation, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, employment services, employment/jobs for refugees, failure to enroll refugee children in school, housing, substandard, Rochester, safety, school for refugee children, Somali | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee Children Get Harassment and Assault Orientation at South Philly School

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 21, 2010

New refugee students in South Philadelphia are learning that their new school may be much more dangerous for them than the refugee camps they came from. On December 3rd students at South Philadelphia High attacked 30 Asian students, mostly refugees. The violence sent seven Asian students to hospitals, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Many Asian students who walk into South Philadelphia High on Tuesday morning will be carrying something besides books.

In pockets and purses, they’ll tote a pamphlet called “Staying Safe.” It was given to them by community leaders who ran a special orientation aimed at teaching the students an important lesson: what to do if they’re attacked at school.

Knowing how to report harassment or assault is a skill most would prefer not to need. But it’s the reality of life at the school, where 30 Asians were attacked by groups of mostly African American students Dec. 3.

The violence sent seven Asians to hospitals and led about 50 to stage a weeklong boycott… here

A community leader told the students that she doesn’t know if changes will do anything to make them safer, in spite of the school being outfitted with extensive new security and programming.

…Last week, school administrators held new-student orientation, a day complete with cheerleaders in uniform and volleyball-team hopefuls knocking a ball around the gym.

The Asian session was a study in contrast. At FACTS charter school in Chinatown, three dozen students from Myanmar, China, Nepal, Vietnam, and elsewhere gathered to listen and talk.

“You guys are walking into the continuing story,” Nancy Nguyen, head of the local chapter of Boat People SOS, told the students. “We don’t know if the school is better. There are a lot of changes, but we don’t know if it’s better.”

The changes include security cameras and programming additions such as an Asian arts initiative and an in-school center for immigrants. A new antiharassment policy is in the works. The Justice Department, which recently informed the district it found merit to the Asian students’ civil-rights complaint, could impose more change.

At FACTS, organizers explained what harassment looks and sounds like, a raw introduction to students new to American culture and schools. Harassment, students heard, can be based on the place of your birth, the accent of your speech, or the shape of your eyes.

The instruction cut close to the bone, particularly when the leaders distributed a list of racial slurs and told the students: It’s wrong. And you need to know that slurs can escalate quickly and violently.

That’s common knowledge to children raised in America. But immigrants can be too limited in English to recognize racist language – and the danger it may portend.

Most of the students were heading into ninth grade at the school, which is 18 percent Asian and 70 percent African American. Some were hearing for the first time that Asians could be targets.

“If they come to beat us up, I’ll just go to the principal,” said Ghanashyam Gautam, 14, who emigrated from Nepal two years ago…

…The training program broke into subgroups. In one, a dozen students from Nepal squeezed around a table, all eyes focused on Nguyen, the Boat People SOS leader.

“I want to let you know what happened,” she began, telling the story of Dec. 3, ending with how Asian students stayed out of school…

…A discussion ensued in Nepalese. One boy wanted to know, if someone punches him, what should he do? Run away?

The first thing, Nguyen answered, is to get to a safe place. Write down everything that happened. And call one of the Asian leaders.

“It’s important for you guys to let us know if something happens,” Nguyen said…

At times, the students’ moods turned somber, as if they were asking themselves: What am I getting into at the school?

Again, we see the refugee resettlement program resettling refugees into urban areas that are obviously not safe for them or their children. Their ability to stay safe in these environments is much less than the average American’s due to newness to the communities, language barriers, lack of knowledge of rules, etc. Many of these refugees are already suffering from stress-related mental illnesses such as PTSD due to the conditions that originally brought them to refugee camps. If seven students hospitalized for injuries in one day, or a 15-year-old refugee boy murdered in a St. Louis ghetto, isn’t enough to get bureaucrats to reconsider things, what would it take to change their minds?

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, dangerous neighborhoods, Dept. of Justice, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, Philadelphia, safety, school for refugee children, schools, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Overage refugee students in Dallas must move to new school

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 10, 2010

The Dallas school district is ordering overage students, including overage refugee students, out of Dallas’ schools and out to a special “overage” high school in a remote and dusty location in the south-side. Dallas joins several other large Texas districts, including Houston, that have campuses for overage students.

Although all sorts of perks and advantages to this arrangement have been touted – social service advisers on hand, partnerships with community groups to help with jobs and child care, and dual-credit classes with community colleges — the real reason for the school seems to be that a former school district trustee had unsavory imaginings when thinking about overage male students sitting in classrooms next to 14-year-old girls.

Former DISD board trustee Ron Price proposed creating the overage school after visiting Madison High School, where he learned of a 21-year-old male enrolling as a freshman.

“The No. 1 problem is the idea of having an adult at the age of 21 with a 14-year-old girl who just left middle school,” he said. here

One reader commenting on the story, however, writes that principals may want to get rid of these students because they want schools’ scores to look better, and that the location for the new school is a horrible place to have a school – dirty, dusty and depressing. Another reader points out that the new location also hosts alternative schools for problem students who were kicked out of their regular schools.

A Nepali-Bhutanese refugee student said that in order for her to get to the new school she will have too take a 26-mile round trip ride on public transportation. Another reader says that this will be a problem as public transportation in Dallas is awful – it takes an hour and a half just to go 8 miles to downtown on a bus — with two transfers.

There also seems to have been some subterfuge in the way that refugee students were enrolled into the new overage high school.

Dallas trustees were told that students filled out and signed an enrollment form indicating they were interested in the overage school.

But Bashu Katel, a refugee from Nepal assigned to the overage campus, said he had little opportunity to discuss his placement when he was pulled out of class at the end of last school year and interviewed.

Katel said his parents, who don’t speak English and don’t have driver’s licenses, rely on him to drive them to work. Making the trek to and from the overage school will make that impossible, he said.

“I only have one more year remaining. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Katel, who is turning 20 in January and will be a senior in the fall. “I want to graduate from Conrad and not the overage high school.”

Posted in Dallas/Fort Worth, education, Nepali Bhutanese, school for refugee children, schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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