Today, a federal judge ruled that the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) must hand over critical evidence to five families as part of their legal challenge to the district’s “anti-Islamophobia initiative.” The program, which was enacted last April, singles out Muslim students for special protections and empowers a controversial Islamic advocacy organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), to vet and revise school curriculum. The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) is representing the plaintiffs, which also include two local organizations, Citizens for Quality Education San Diego and the San Diego Asian Americans for Equality Foundation.
On February 20, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction with over 200 pages of supporting evidence, asking the Court to stop SDUSD’s superintendent and school board from further implementing the initiative. The school board claimed to have rescinded the program at a public board meeting in July 2017, but extensive evidence uncovered over the past several months shows that the alleged cancellation of the policy was a “sham.” To prepare for the tentative hearing on the preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs now seek communications and other records that took place after the July 2017 board meeting.
Federal procedural court rules typically prohibit early “discovery” until the parties’ attorneys meet to set up a corresponding timeline. However, a court can grant a request for expedited discovery if there is a showing of “good cause.” In this case, the Court found that access to additional SDUSD records is “in the interest of the administration justice” to “more fully develop the factual record on the Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion.” According to the Court’s 14-page opinion:
Whether or not Defendants’ rescission was a “sham,” facts pertaining to the District’s conduct after the public rescission of the Policy may be relevant to the question of whether Plaintiffs face ongoing irreparable harm from a policy that allegedly violates the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Plaintiffs’ assertion of irreparable harm in their preliminary injunction motion stems from the existence and implementation of an allegedly unconstitutional policy.
As part of its ruling, the Court narrowed down several proposed records requests, finding that they were “overly broad.” This included narrowing names and documents to those referenced in the preliminary injunction motion and tailoring the requests to focus exclusively on the anti-Islamophobia initiative’s policies and subsequent iterations, not to the case at large.
SDUSD must produce the records by April 9, 2018, which is the deadline for the district to file an opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. A hearing date on the motion is scheduled for April 23, 2018.