NSD issued “cease and desist” letter from FCDF. Photo courtesy of mrehan

NSD issued “cease and desist” letter from FCDF. Photo courtesy of mrehan

NSD issued lawsuit threat from FCDF

NSD is the second school district asked to withdraw its Ramadan guidelines by FCDF.

The Northshore School District (NSD) has been issued a “cease and desist” letter by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF).

The FCDF is a pro bono legal team that focuses on First Amendment advocacy. As part of its mission, the team works to educate school administrators, families and the local community about religion in public schools.

NSD is the second Seattle-area school district to be threatened with a lawsuit regarding a Ramadan policy. Dieringer School District, serving Lake Tapps, received a “cease and desist” letter from the FCDF earlier this month for allegedly endorsing Islam and following a script by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that urges schools to make special accommodations for Muslim students.

The FCDF issued NSD, its superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, and school board a “cease and desist” letter on May 10. The letter demanded the district shut down what the FCDF called NSD’s “Ramadan policy.”

Prior to the May 10 letter, NSD’s Equity and Diversity department issued guidelines — not a policy — to school officials to make sure “students have the right accommodations and support from teachers and their peers.”

The original guidelines included the following:Planning in advance with Muslim students to allow them to “quietly slip away” for prayer to “avoid calling unwanted attention to them.”

“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)?”

“A brief mention of Ramadan or a lesson on it may promote the feeling of inclusivity” because “[m]any Muslim students may feel embarrassed to be specially accommodated.”

Create “comfortable” safe spaces for Muslim students with “books, magazines and other things to keep students busy.”

“Fitness and cardio assessments could be done prior to the beginning of Ramadan,” or allow Muslim students “provide a support role for coach/teacher while being responsible for content learning.” “Privately offer information about nutritional adaptations” to Muslim students while they fast during the day.

According to the FCDF, an anonymous NSD faculty member contacted them and said the district’s “pro-Islam ‘diversity’ mandates are being forced on teachers.”

“The school district’s so-called Ramadan ‘accommodations’ run roughshod over the First Amendment and are a blatant insult to students of other faiths,” Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director, said in a statement. “Under the mantle of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion,’ school officials have exalted Islam as the state-sponsored religion. Teachers and parents are outraged, and they should be.”

In the FCDF’s “cease and desist” letter to NSD, they demanded the district to:

Rescind the ‘Ramadan Policy;’

Restore the rights of non-Muslim students of faith to be treated equally under the law;

Undertake a review of all instances in which district officials enforced the Ramadan policy; and

Inform staff and parents of the district’s unlawful actions and your efforts to remedy them

“Please notify us within five business days in writing regarding whether you agree to these demands. If we do not receive a response by then, we may be forced to take legal action, by which we will seek injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees,” the letter said.

In Reid’s May 17 “Thursday Thoughts” district blog, she said NSD is “committed to each student feeling safe as a responsible and persistent learner.”

“While our practicing Muslim students move through the month of Ramadan, it is possible that they partake in no food or drink during school and it is important that we take appropriate measures to support their learning,” she said.

She said she and the Equity and Diversity department worked together to issue a revised letter that details how the district is supporting its Muslim students.

“There are also ideas for providing additional support, and links to resources for a greater understanding of Ramadan,” she said.

In the revised letter to school officials, the district issued the following:

“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”;

“Privately 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 district suggested a neutralized “comfortable space for fasting students,” but informed teachers it’s up to the student whether they choose to go there or not.

“Muslim students no doubt have a right to receive appropriate religious accommodations,” Piedra said. “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.”

FCDF said it will continue to monitor the district’s actions to ensure it complies with the Constitution. It is also awaiting the production of documents from a public record request made two weeks ago. According to district officials, the records will be produced by June 21.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported on Northshore School District’s guidelines regarding students observing Ramadan and the district’s response to possible legal action. The district issued guidelines for faculty and staff on Ramadan and did not rescind support of continued student education. For an updated story, click here.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

courtesy of PropertyShark
State’s richest zip codes are all in East King County, according to home value study

Medina zip code ranks among top 10 most affluent in the nation.

Redmond’s Silver Cloud Inn, purchased by county to become permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless (photo credit: Cameron Sheppard)
King County councilmember proposes a public comment period before county establishes homeless shelters

In some cities, hotels bought to homeless shelters have been constroversial among residents.

Pixabay image
Man dubbed “the sweatpants robber” arrested by Bellevue police

Antonio Aaron is supected of nine different robberies across East King County.

Abusive power and control diagram (Screenshot taken from Zoom meeting with advocates against domestic violence)
For domestic violence survivors, petitioning for a protective order can be an uphill battle

New state law intends to remove barriers to protection, but advocates say it may not do enough.

Left: Dow Constantine, Right: Joe Nguyen (screenshot from King County website)
Constantine leads in vote count for King County Executive

Incumbent Dow Constantine is challenged by State Sen. Joe Nguyen.

file photo
Two Eastside high schools recognized for their collective academic success

Redmond HS and Newport HS both honored, Newport had three different sports teams win.

Google Images
Racial disparities in bike helmet law forces decision by King County health board

On Oct. 21, the King County Board of Health discussed striking down… Continue reading