Journalist Jo Napolitano delves into the landmark case in which the School District of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was sued for refusing to admit older, non-English speaking refugees and sending them to a high-discipline alternative school.
Their powerful narratives, framed by excellent use of statistics contextualizing the human rights issues at stake, span an exodus from genocidal countries to an American federal court. Napolitano uses just enough of the case’s legal issues and proceedings to create an accessible courtroom drama. Ultimately, Khadidjah and Mahamed’s story becomes an indictment of educational inequities and injustices experienced by schoolchildren in America: underfunded schools, outsourcing to private entities to save money, unequal access to high-quality instructional programs, lack of specialists, culturally unresponsive climates, subjective admission criteria, physical discipline of students, and, most damagingly, a system more concerned with state-reported graduation numbers than student learning. Napolitano’s book should be the next step for people horrified by the plight of refugees, undocumented people, and unaccompanied minors.
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 ... 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.
... a sleek, knowledgeable study ... Napolitano retraces Khadidja’s history with great dexterity, detailing the family’s terror-stricken homeland and their time at a decrepit refugee camp in Chad. Through their struggle, the author paints a broader portrait of the unfortunately common xenophobia that refugees have always faced in the U.S., prejudice that increased considerably during the Trump administration. Backed by research, profiles, court testimonies, and interviews with teachers, refugees, and immigrant advocates, the book calls into question the vital essence of education and why, even in this modern era of accountability, these injustices persist ... An eyebrow-raising report on education that is both enraging and heartbreaking.