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Fay Beydoun's parents speak Arabic at home, and she's learning the language at Riverside Academy West.
"Alsalam Alikoum. Kaif halak," she repeated during a recent Arabic class featuring common greetings. Translation: Hello. How are you?
"I already knew how to write the language, but it's good to be able to speak it and understand it, too, inside and outside the classroom," said Beydoun, 17, a senior.
It is part of the curriculum in all grades at 10 schools in the Global Educational Excellence charter system, which has facilities in Hamtramck, Detroit, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Ann Arbor.
The charter schools were founded by Palestinian immigrant Mohamad Issa and his brother Said Issa in 1997 with 97 students. He said learning Arabic, in addition to the traditional core curriculum, will better enable students to compete in a global marketplace.
The next logical step, he said, is to expand into the Middle East, becoming the only Michigan-based charter system on foreign soil.
The Dearborn Public Schools must make changes to comply with civil rights laws, following an enforcement action launched by a federal agency two years ago.
The U.S. Education Department said Thursday an agreement with the district and the department's Office for Civil Rights resolves the federal inquiry.
Parents with limited English proficiency in the heavily Arab-American [translation: Muhammadan] district were not given adequate access to information about their children's education in a language they could understand, according to the investigation.
Officials said the district also denied students learning English access to nonacademic programs and activities.
It's about time the district was required to change its policies, said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News.