Is­lam­o­pho­bia pro­gram leads par­ents to sue school dis­trict

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY ALEX SWOYER

A group of San Diego par­ents are su­ing to try to stop the school dis­trict’s cam­paign against bul­ly­ing of Mus­lims, say­ing that of­fi­cials’ plans go beyond anti-bul­ly­ing and end up ac­tu­ally pro­mot­ing Is­lam.

That, the par­ents said in a com­plaint filed last week, amounts to an un­con­sti­tu­tional pro­mo­tion of a re­li­gion.

The school’s plans in­clude send­ing a let­ter to staff and par­ents warn­ing about the dan­gers of Is­lam­o­pho­bia, seek­ing to rec­og­nize Mus­lim hol­i­days in the school cal­en­dar, pro­vid­ing re­sources for stu­dents dur­ing Ra­madan and en­gag­ing in what the par­ents called “for­mal part­ner­ships” with the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions (CAIR).

The par­ents said the San Diego Uni­fied School Dis­trict has joined with CAIR to “set up a sub­tle, dis­crim­i­na­tory scheme that es­tab­lishes Mus­lim stu­dents as the priv­i­leged re­li­gious group within the school com­mu­nity.”

The school dis­trict didn’t want to com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion, but a spokesper­son di­rected The Wash­ing­ton Times to an op-ed in The San Diego Union-Tri­bune ad­dress­ing the pol­icy de­ci­sions.

“In San Diego, the lo­cal Mus­lim com­mu­nity brought its con­cerns to the school board. Their tes­ti­mony in­cluded par­ents and stu­dents who had been re­duced to tears by the taunts of their peers,” reads the op-ed by Richard Barrera, pres­i­dent of the dis­trict’s board of trustees, and Kevin Beiser, the board’s vice pres­i­dent. “These meet­ings — still avail­able for view­ing on­line — are truly heart-wrench­ing to watch.”

It’s be­cause of these re­ports that the school board de­cided to take ac­tion.

“Our goal was not to en­dorse a re­li­gion, but rather to as­sure a vul­ner­a­ble seg­ment of our com­mu­nity that our schools are safe places for them, just as they are safe spa­ces for all chil­dren,” they wrote.

But the lawyer for the par­ents said sin­gling Mus­lims out for spe­cial pro­tec­tions against al­leged bul­ly­ing is just a false pre­text.

“There’s re­ally no ev­i­dence that Mus­lims are dis­pro­por­tion­ally bul­lied,” said Charles LiMan­dri, the lawyer. “The bul­ly­ing thing, we see it as a pre­text.”

Mr. LiMan­dri said his clients be­lieve the cur­ricu­lum is “go­ing to be bi­ased in fa­vor of Is­lam and give a dis­torted pic­ture of Is­lam.” He also said the pu­bic school dis­trict should not be work­ing with CAIR be­cause of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pur­ported ties to ter­ror­ist groups.

“These are se­ri­ous is­sues when you have an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is in­fil­trat­ing the pub­lic school sys­tem,” he said.

Lawrence A. Alexan­der, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of San Diego, said the law­suit lends him to think it’s “a silly PC pol­icy, as the plain­tiffs al­lege, but that it is un­likely to be found to be an un­con­sti­tu­tional re­li­gious pref­er­ence.”

CAIR, based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., pro­motes Is­lam and a pos­i­tive im­age of Mus­lims. But the group also was named as an unin­dicted co-con­spir­a­tor in the Jus­tice Depart­ment pros­e­cu­tion of a ter­ror­ism­fundrais­ing scheme a decade ago.

CAIR didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment, but it dis­misses “con­spir­acy the­o­ries” about the or­ga­ni­za­tion on its web­site.

“Be­cause of CAIR’s high pro­file and very pub­lic record of prin­ci­pled ad­vo­cacy of civil lib­er­ties, in­ter­faith re­la­tions and jus­tice for all peo­ple, a small but vo­cal group of anti-Mus­lim big­ots has made CAIR the fo­cus of their mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign,” the group says. “In­ter­net hate sites then re­cy­cle these at­tacks us­ing a tem­plate-like style with­out ver­i­fy­ing the au­then­tic­ity of the in­for­ma­tion.”

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