State Orders Charter School to Correct 2 Areas Tied to Islam

May 20, 2008


Source: Star Tribune

An Inver Grove Heights charter school must change the way it handles issues related to Muslim prayer in school and busing for after-school religious instruction or face repercussions, the Minnesota Department of Education said Monday.

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a public school with mostly Muslim students, has been accused of blurring the line between religion and state by promoting Islam, which the school has denied.

Most of the school's operations follow state charter school law and federal guidelines on prayer in schools, but the department found two areas of concern, said Morgan Brown, an assistant commissioner with the department.

School director Asad Zaman said he takes the state's concerns seriously and will address them as soon as possible. He also took the report as vindication, saying: "I now have proof that this is not a religious school."

But the report said the school may be violating the law by allowing voluntary Friday prayers that most students attend to take place on school grounds. Those 30-minute prayers take up so much time that they may be a burden to non-praying students, and could mean the school isn't teaching students for as many hours a year as the state requires. Letting teachers participate, even though they don't lead prayers, may give students the impression that the school endorses Islam.

The state also said it was concerned about the appearance created by the school's bus schedule. The school does not provide busing for students immediately after classes, instead it waits until the end of after-school activities, which include a religious studies course run by the Muslim American Society that more than half the students take.

The school characterized the concerns as "minor," pointing out that the department found no fault with the school's curriculum, library or accommodations for five-minute student prayers held Monday through Thursday.

See also: Islam, Civic, Schools