A school district in Washington state has dropped its special policy promoting Ramadan, according to a legal team that sent officials a cease-and-desist letter regarding the specialized accommodations for Muslims.
It was the Northshore School District in Bothell that had been contacted by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.
The district’s policy directed teachers to create “safe spaces” for Muslims, plan with Muslim students to let them “quietly slip away” from class for prayer, “privately offer information” about nutrition during their Ramadan fast, give “a lesson” on Ramadan and privately ask Muslim students what accommodations they want.
“Northshore’s decision to roll back its Ramadan policy is a victory for the First Amendment,” said FCDF Executive Director Daniel Piedra. “We applaud the courageous parents and teacher who took a stand to remind Northshore it is a public school district, not an Islamic madrassa.”
FCDF wrote to Northshore after parents and a teacher, whose identity was not revealed, contacted the organization about “the district’s special protections for Muslim students during Ramadan, Islam’s holy month.”
Piedra then wrote to Supt. Michelle Reid, explaining that favoritism toward Muslims is not allowed under the U.S. Constitution.
A series of guidelines in a memo to teachers and staff “on how to nurture Muslim students during Ramadan” created the issue.
The district directives said:
- “When planning school activities and events, think about how it will impact practicing Muslim students” by asking “Will they feel left out?” and “Will they feel pressured to break their fast before sunset or Iftar (breaking of fast)?”;
- Create special “safe spaces” for Muslim students;
- Plan with Muslim students to allow them to “quietly slip away” for prayer to “avoid calling unwanted attention to them”;
- “Privately offer information about nutritional adaptations” while Muslim students fast;
- During class, give “[a] brief mention of Ramadan or a lesson on it [to] promote the feeling of inclusivity” because “[m]any Muslim students may feel embarrassed to be specially accommodated”;
- “[P]rivately ask Muslim students if they would like accommodations”; and
- “If you are aware of practicing Muslim students in your school and are still unsure about how to support them during Ramadan, don’t hesitate to ask them privately what they need.”
The guidelines have been rescinded.
“In an updated memo, Northshore suggests a neutralized ‘comfortable space for fasting students,’ but informs teachers ‘it’s up to the student whether they choose to go there or not.’ The policy also suggests that physical education teachers may accommodate fasting students to avoid strenuous activities. Both suggestions are likely reasonable under the First Amendment to the extent they would not impose undue hardship on school operations,” FCDF said.
“Muslim students no doubt have a right to receive appropriate religious accommodations,” said Piedra. “But Northshore’s plan went above and beyond mere ‘accommodations’; it exalted Islam as the privileged religion in the school district. It is unfortunate it took a threat to sue for district officials to come to their senses.”
Just days earlier, FCDF sent a similar letter to the Dieringer School District in Lake Tapps, Washington, about the same issue.
The Ramadan policy had been recommended by the terror-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations.
After CAIR wrote to the district suggesting various changes in policy and practice that would benefit Muslim students, district Supt. Judy Martinson implemented CAIR’s suggestions as official district policy. She distributed the CAIR letter to school principals, who in turn circulated it to all teachers and staff, FCDF said.
The guidelines included having teachers greet students in Arabic for their Ramadan holiday.