Calling it a “pervasively Muslim school,” the ACLU has filed suit against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a public charter school in Minnesota that shares space with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.
TiZA, founded in 2003, teaches 430 K-8 students. Although most students come from low-income immigrant families — many are African — test scores are higher than the state average.
The lawsuit contends TiZA endorses Muslim religious practices by:
# Permitting prayer sessions during school hours and having teacher-sanctioned religious material posted on classroom bulletin boards.
# Allowing students and teachers to gather for 30 minutes of communal prayer every Friday.
# Giving preference to Muslim clothing rules. Girls, but not boys, are prohibited from wearing short sleeves. Girls also must wear skirts or pants of a certain length, depending on their grade level. Female teachers must be covered from neck to wrist and ankle.
A state investigation called for running buses for students who don’t wish to stay for the after-school religion classes and holding the Friday prayer service after school. School officials say they’ve complied.
Joe Nathan, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for School Change, puts TiZA “in the top 5 percent of schools he has reviewed in terms of academic excellence and commitment to tolerance.” As a Jew, Nathan says, he’s strongly committed to the separation of church (or mosque) and state.