Group files lawsuit against SDUSD for proposed ‘Anti-Islamophobia’ program

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A group opposed to a San Diego Unified School District program to combat Islamophobia in schools filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging its constitutionality. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) on behalf of six parents, the group "Citizens for Quality Education, San Diego" and the "San Diego Asian Americans for Equality," according to the FCDF. 

The program is the result of direction by the board last July to address discrimination against Muslim students and their families, who trustees said are more likely to be bullied than other students.

Between July 1 and Dec. 31 last year, there were seven reported incidents of harassment based on religion in San Diego Unified schools, according to a district presentation. By comparison, there were 36 based on race and 21 on sex during the same period.

Related Link: Religious freedom lawyer comes out against SDUSD anti-Islamophobia program

The program includes ensuring Muslim holidays are acknowledged on staff calendars, setting up professional staff development training on awareness of and advocating for Muslim culture, providing resources to students during Ramadan, and giving teachers history and social science materials, among other things. Over several years, the school board plans to consider high school clubs that promote American-Muslim culture. 

"Most controversially, the school district seeks to explore and engage in formal partnerships with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a self-described Muslim civil rights organization," the FCDF said. "Students of other faiths are excluded from this program, including Jewish students, who statistically face an overwhelmingly higher level of bullying and discrimination than do Muslims."

Related Link: SDUSD Board of Education to discuss border wall, Islamophobia, pink slips, sex education

The district said it is not endorsing Islam or favoring a religion over another. 

"Schools with large Muslim communities may choose to make areas available for prayer, if that is requested by their parents and students," the district said. "However, this is no more or less than we would do to accommodate Christians who want to pray at school, or members of other faiths. It is not uncommon, for example, for our schools to have a prayer club that meets before the start of school."

Related Link: Group to oppose SDUSD support program for Muslim students
On April 27, LiMandri sent a letter to all members of the Board, warning them that the program raises serious constitutional concerns and would likely result in a "needless, lengthy, and expensive court battle."

The FCDF complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. It is asking the court to declare that SDUSD and its officials violated plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights and to grant an injunction to preliminarily and permanently stop the implementation and enforcement of the "Anti-Islamophobia" program. 

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