The settlement agreement ensures an equally safe and supportive learning environment for students of all religious beliefs.
Yesterday, FCDF attorneys finalized a settlement agreement with the San Diego Unified School District that resolves a federal lawsuit challenging the District’s “Anti-Islamophobia Initiative.” FCDF representing five families, along with two advocacy organizations, San Diego Asian Americans for Equality and Citizens for Quality Education, sued the District in 2017, alleging that the anti-Muslim bullying program violated the First Amendment because it was religiously preferential.
“Nowhere is religious liberty and equal protection more critical than in our schools,” said Charles LiMandri, FCDF’s Chief Counsel. “We commend the District for taking affirmative steps to ensure that students of all faiths may learn and thrive in a safe and nondiscriminatory environment.”
The District’s Initiative, which was developed in collaboration with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), mandated training on “how to become allies to Muslim students,” provided for CAIR officials to teach students about Islamic religious practices, and authorized the Islamic group to revise school curricula to ensure more a “inclusive” portrayal of Islam.
The complaint alleged that the Initiative violated the Constitution because it (1) singled out Muslim students for preferential benefits and (2) empowered CAIR with governmental decision-making authority, thereby constituting government entanglement with religion.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the District distributed a policy memo to area superintendents and principals regarding the First Amendment’s “limits on the conduct of public school officials as it relates to religious activity.” These directives include:
To address religious preferentialism:
- “Educators should treat each religion with equal respect, with the time and attention spent discussing each religion being proportionate to its impact on history and human development and the material presented in its historical context.”
- “Educational material on religious subjects must be neutral and may not be presented in a manner that promotes one religion over another.”
In response to CAIR’s activism:
- “Educators or other staff sponsoring guest speakers at District events must ask them not to use their position or influence on students to forward their own religious, political, economic or social views or and shall take active steps to neutralize whatever bias has been presented.”
- “Guest speakers from religious organizations are not permitted to present to students on religious topics.”
“Every child, regardless of their race or religion, should be able to attend school without fear of being harassed and bullied. We are pleased that the District has agreed to take these steps to ensure that all students attending San Diego schools are equally protected under the Constitution without discrimination or preferential treatment.”Frank Xu, Vice President of San Diego Asian Americans for Equality
“It is paramount schools at every level not only provide a quality education for children but also ensure a safe and impartial environment in which to learn their lessons. Biased outside groups, such as CAIR, have no business influencing policies in our public schools. We hope this agreement will encourage school districts nationwide to reject appeals to build coalitions offered by controversial sectarian organizations.”Mary Baker, President of Citizens for Quality Education San Diego
FCDF filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The case is titled Citizens for Quality Education San Diego, et al. v. Richard Barrera, et al., Case No. 3:17-cv-1054. Now that the parties have settled, they filed a joint motion asking the Court to dismiss the case. Yesterday, the court granted the motion and dismissed the case with prejudice