The Northshore School District (NSD) has stated it has not changed its stance regarding support toward its Muslim students.
NSD was recently issued a “cease and desist” letter filed by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) for its supposed “Ramadan policy.” However, the district does not have a policy. A formal policy requires the district board to vote on it and enforce it throughout the district. District guidelines are not formally voted on or strictly enforced.
The FCDF is a pro bono legal team that focuses on First Amendment advocacy. As part of its mission, the organization works to educate school administrators, families and the local community about religion in public schools.
Prior to the May 10 “cease and desist” letter, NSD’s equity and diversity department issued guidelines 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.”
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.”
Piedra said he believed the district’s “plan” went “above and beyond mere ‘accommodations.’”
In Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid’s May 17 “Thursday Thoughts” district blog, she said NSD is “committed to each student feeling safe as a responsible and persistent learner.”
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.
The revised guidelines were published May 16.
In response to the FCDF’s “cease and desist” letter, Reid said she has not changed her support for Muslim students and families as a result of the legal challenge.