School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy Faculty Publications

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In this article the author examines public schools in the United States as sites where immigrants and refugees express their religious identities as part of their integration processes. In particular, the author examines the schools as “sites of refuge” for refugee students. Although public schools provide refugees with opportunity for study without regard to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion (areas of potential persecution under the 1951 UN Convention Regarding the Status of Refugees), owing to their liberal and secular nature they necessarily put constraints on the degree to which students may exercise their particularistic cultural identities. Religion is an area in which such constraints are often most apparent. The article analyzes Will Kymlicka’s theory of polyethnic group rights as a possible framework for both understanding migrant ethnic cultures and integration processes generally, as well as a defense for providing accommodations for the religious identities and religious expressions of immigrant and refugee students. With conditions, the author believes that, by guaranteeing the right to refugee students’ societal culture, polyethnic rights comprise a viable framework for supporting immigrants and refugees in their integration into the United States. However, the framework works only to the degree that it is consistent with and advances liberal ends, including student autonomy and freedom.

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Educational Policy

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