- San Diego Unified School District’s Board of Education scrapped an initiative that sought to provide, among other items, special benefits to Muslim students, permit the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to teach students and provide educational materials, and revise curricula to promote a more positive and inclusive portrayal of Islam;
- Board’s decision is a result of FCDF’s federal lawsuit filed on behalf of five families challenging the constitutionality of SDUSD’s policy favoring Muslim students and its partnership with CAIR;
- Charles LiMandri, FCDF President & Chief Counsel, commented:
“Last night, the School Board recognized the importance of protecting students of all religious beliefs from bullying as well as keeping our children safe from the influence of divisive outside forces. While we are pleased with the Board’s decision, we remain disappointed that it waited until a federal lawsuit had to be filed to implement a fair and equal anti-bullying policy that protects all students.”
Last night, San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) Board of Education overturned its “anti-Islamophobia” bullying prevention initiative and adopted a new program entitled “No Place for Hate,” which was developed by the Anti-Defamation League and will focus on protecting students of all religious beliefs. In addition, the Board voted to back away from another formal partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Board’s reversal is a response to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) on behalf of five families and two organization that challenged the initiative’s constitutionality.
On April 5, 2017, the Board approved an Anti-Islamophobia initiative purportedly to combat the bullying of Muslim students. Among other benefits, the initiative instructed teachers and staff to promote Muslim culture, create safe spaces for Muslim students, and vet and revise curricula to ensure a more “positive” and “inclusive” portrayal of Islam. In addition, the initiative sought to formalize SDUSD’s longtime collaboration with CAIR, and it authorized the group to provide training materials, teach students about Islam during class time, and pass out religious materials.
On April 27, Charles LiMandri, FCDF President & Chief Counsel, emailed a detailed, three-page letter to each SDUSD board member and Superintendent Marten, informing them that the initiative, when implemented, would “likely violate the U.S. Constitution, and consequently would invite time-consuming and expensive legal challenges.” LiMandri recommended that the Board rescind the anti-Islamophobia initiative and pursue an anti-bullying measure that protected students of all religions.
SDUSD officials did not respond to the letter, nor did they rescind the policy at either of the two board meetings that were held prior to the filing of the original complaint on May 22, 2017. On June 28, FCDF filed an amended complaint adding additional state law claims, including violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and several provisions of the California Education Code.
“As part of a quality education, students should learn about all religions. However, allowing an outside Islamic group to dictate how and what students learn about Islam undermines our school children’s right to an objective and unbiased understanding of history and world cultures.
While we hope for a reasonable, final resolution that avoids further litigation, we will continue – for our schoolchildren’s sake – to hold the Board to a standard in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and California state law.”
FCDF has been communicating with SDUSD’s counsel with the goal of addressing the lawsuit’s allegations without further litigation; however, it is still waiting for SDUSD to respond to FCDF’s California Public Records Act request (submitted nearly three months ago) regarding the initiative and the district’s relationship with CAIR. FCDF expects the next step to occur within 1-2 weeks.
The school district’s decision to back away from partnering with CAIR is an important victory, FCDF Executive Director Daniel Piedra told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). But he remains concerned that CAIR still may partner with the school district on other programs.
Mohebi and his allies seemed upset that they will not be able to use the school district to further their agenda, Piedra said after the meeting.
“They talk about equality, but it’s really Orwellian because in their philosophy and the school board’s philosophy, they are really saying that all students are equal but that some students are more equal than others,” Piedra said.
The FCDF lawsuit remains alive despite Tuesday’s decision to switch from CAIR’s program to the ADL’s. The group wants to learn more about CAIR’s role in drafting the anti-bullying program. If it turns out that CAIR was intimately involved, the lawsuit may move forward because students’ rights would have been violated, Piedra said, and to ensure that CAIR loses future opportunities to shape policy.
FCDF could seek monetary damages, he said, but it may ask a judge to impose a consent decree compelling the school district to not partner with CAIR again.
“We are willing to work with them; however, violating the Constitution is a serious allegation, and we are going to hold that to the school district every step of the way,” Piedra said.
Under the now-abandoned program, students accused of bullying Muslim students were supposed to face “restorative justice,” requiring them to reconcile with the other student. The school district would provide monthly reports on the bullying of Muslim students and post them online.
The district’s reversal follows the FCDF’s amended complaint filed last month, which challenged CAIR’s local effort to hide behind the label of being a “civil rights organization.” It pointed to testimony by CAIR co-founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad, who told the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that it lacked jurisdiction over a fight over unionizing CAIR employees because CAIR is a religious organization.
CAIR letterhead includes the invocation, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” which opens every chapter in the Quran, Charles L. Posner, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, wrote in an April 7 ruling.
This religious acknowledgement goes to the heart of the Establishment Clause‘s separation of church and state.
The loss of the San Diego program is a set-back for CAIR’s desire to take an “anti-Muslim bullying” program national. It represents the biggest government rebuke to CAIR since the FBI instituted a policy in 2008 to break-off outreach programs due to CAIR’s documented history in a Muslim-Brotherhood created Hamas-support network in the United States.
And it should send a message to districts throughout the country, Piedra said, warning CAIR that his organization will sue any public school district that partners with it in a similar anti-bullying program.
“We want to be sure for the benefit of our schoolchildren that CAIR is kept out of America’s schools,” Piedra said.
Five families stood up to the biggest bully of them all: CAIR. It started with one person objecting. Then another. Blogs bringing the information to the attention of a larger audience. Then more opposition. Then legal representation.
A major battle won no doubt. But will it prevent CAIR from infiltrating schools in the U.S.? As IPT notes above, the FBI banned CAIR years ago – and it had little if any affect.
Since that ban and a Senate recommendation to ban government employees from meeting with the Hamas front group, CAIR has continued to publicly verbally assault the FBI, file endless requests for the FBI to investigate supposed crimes, filed endless lawsuits, meet with elected state and federal officials, visit the White House hundreds of times, be the go-to media contact on all issues Islam and meet with rogue FBI agents and leaders regularly. Will anything change under the Trump administration?
It’s a long war.