On the heels of a Seattle-area school district reportedly requesting that teachers bless Muslim students in Arabic during Ramadan, yet another Seattle-area school district is being accused of promoting Islam and giving Muslim students preferential treatment during Ramadan, when no food or drink is taken from dawn to sunset.
After receiving complaints from the community and an anonymous teacher, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund said it sent a "cease and desist" letter to the superintendent and school board of Northshore School District in Bothel demanding the district end its special Ramadan policy.
What's the background?
Michelle Reid, the district superintendent, noted in her May 3 blog that "while our practicing Muslim students move through the month of Ramadan, it is possible that they partake in no food or drink during school and it is important that we take appropriate measures to support their learning."
She noted a document from Chris Bigelow, the district's equity and diversity director, that "provides details on how our district is supporting our Muslim students. There are also ideas for providing additional support, and links to resources for a greater understanding of Ramadan."
What does the document suggest?
The document regarding treatment of students during Ramadan addresses three areas: space, physical education, and empathy. Some of the highlights:
- "Many Muslim students may feel embarrassed to be specially accommodated. A brief mention of Ramadan or a lesson on it may promote the feeling of inclusivity."
- "When planning school activities and events, think about how it will impact practicing Muslim students. Will they feel left out? Will they feel pressured to break their fast before sunset or Iftar (breaking of fast)?"
- "Lunchtime is probably one of the most difficult periods to endure while fasting. It might help to provide a comfortable space for Muslim students to go to instead of the designated lunchroom."
- "Some Muslim students may request a quiet space for their midday prayers. To avoid calling unwanted attention to them, plan ahead of time so your student can quietly slip away for prayer, which usually takes no longer than five minutes."
What did the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund have to say?
"The school district's so-called Ramadan 'accommodations' run roughshod over the First Amendment and are a blatant insult to students of other faiths," Daniel Piedra, FCDF's executive director, said. "Under the mantle of 'diversity' and 'inclusion,' school officials have exalted Islam as the state-sponsored religion. Teachers and parents are outraged, and they should be."
In his cease and desist letter, Piedra wrote that the district "acted under color of state law to create an official government action that has a primary effect of advancing religion." He added that "administrators and teachers must never be placed in the position of monitoring a child's compliance with a particular religious requirement, such as prayer, dietary restrictions, or wearing a head covering."
The FCDF demanded that the district take the following actions:
- Rescind the Ramadan Policy;
- Restore the rights of non-Muslim students of faith to be treated equally under the law;
- Undertake a review of all instances in which District officials enforced the Ramadan Policy; and
- Inform staff and parents of the District's unlawful actions and your efforts to remedy them.
The letter added that if the district fails to take action within five business days, legal action may be filed, which would include seeking damages and attorneys' fees.
The school district on Thursday didn't immediately reply to TheBlaze's request for comment.