San Diego Unified School District rescinds anti-Islamophobia initiative

Charles LiMandri
Charles LiMandri

SAN DIEGO – On April 5, 2017 San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) adopted an initiative that provided special benefits to Muslim students, permitted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to provide educational materials and revise curricula to promote a more positive and inclusive portrayal of Islam.

SDUSD failed to respond to an April 27 letter sent by Attorney Charles LiMandri, president and chief counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), detailing how the initiative, when implemented, would “likely violate the U.S. constitution, and consequently would invite time-consuming and expensive legal challenges.”

As a remedy, LiMandri recommended the board rescind the anti-Islamophobia intiative and pursue an anti-bullying measure that protected students of all religions.

SDUSD officials neither responded to the letter nor did it rescind the policy at either of two board meetings held prior to May 22, which was when LiMandri filed the original complaint on behalf of five families challenging the constitutionality of the district’s policy favoring Muslim students and its partnership with CAIR.

Sonoran News reported about the lawsuit in a May 25 article titled “San Diego Unified School District sued over Islamic Indoctrination.”

On June 28, FCDF filed an amended complaint alleging the school district has engaged with CAIR, an Islamic advocacy organization, to enact, implement, and enforce an “integrated and holistic” anti-Islamophobia initiative across the SDUSD to combat bullying of and discrimination against Muslim students and their families.

The amended complaint goes on to state, “Under the guise of this anti-bullying program, defendants have entangled themselves with [CAIR] to set up a subtle, discriminatory scheme that establishes Muslim students as the privileged religious group within the school community. Consequently, students of other faiths are left on the outside looking in, vulnerable to religiously motivated bullying, while Muslim students enjoy an exclusive right to the school district’s benevolent protection.”

During its July 25 regular meeting, the SDUSD board voted to rescind its anti-Islamophobia initiative, redirected staff away from forming a formal partnership with CAIR and directed staff instead to form a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League “to assist in creating respectful, inclusive and safe learning environments and communities.”

The board also directed staff to form an intercultural committee, to include representatives from all faiths and cultures, to provide input on “issues of cultural sensitivities and the individual needs of various subgroups within our diverse community.”

The day after the July 25 board meeting, LiMandri stated, “Last night, the school board recognized the importance of protecting students of all religious beliefs from bullying as well as keeping our children safe from the influence of divisive outside forces.

“While we are pleased with the board’s decision, we remain disappointed that it waited until a federal lawsuit had to be filed to implement a fair and equal anti-bullying policy that protects all students.”

LiMandri stated CAIR’s verified affiliations to Islamic extremism and its anti-Israel agenda should never be allowed in our schools and said FCDF “will continue to advocate on behalf of parents who are deeply concerned about protecting their children from harmful influences.”

He said students should learn about all religions as part of a quality education. However, LiMandri stated, “allowing an outside Islamic group to dictate how and what students learn about Islam undermines our schoolchildren’s right to an objective an unbiased understanding of history and world cultures.”

While the complaint has not yet been withdrawn, LiMandri said he hopes for a reasonable and final resolution that avoids further litigation and stated FCDF will continue to hold the board to a standard in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and California state law.

In an effort to resolve other allegations raised in the lawsuit without further litigation, FCDF has been communicating with SDUSD’s counsel as it waits for SDUSD to respond to its California Public Records Act request submitted nearly three months ago regarding the initiative and the district’s relationship with CAIR.