ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – A Muslim-oriented public charter school claims Minnesota unfairly fined it $1.4 million. Tarek bin Zeya Academy, the plaintiff, was sued by the ACLU in January, which claimed the school was sponsored by Islamic Relief USA and was unconstitutionally receiving taxpayers’ money.
In its recent complaint in Ramsey County Court, the Academy claims the Minnesota Department of Education fined it for violating teacher licensure law, but refused to provide enough documentation for the school to appeal. It claims the state made “a purposeful and calculated resistance” in withholding the files.
The Tarek bin Zeya Academy (TIZA) is a K-8 charter school sponsored by Islamic Relief USA, according to ACLU’s January lawsuit, and to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The school opened in 2003. The ACLU claims that the primarily Muslim school propagates Islamic teachings.
The Star Tribune reported in 2008: “Evidence suggests … that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers,” and that TIZA “shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.” The Pioneer Press also reported that the state’s Department of Education had determined that TIZA was not teaching the Islamic religion to its students.
But that did not prevent the ACLU of Minnesota from suing the school, claiming it is using public money to fund a religious institution. The ACLU’s federal lawsuit claimed that TIZA “prefers the Muslim religion over other religions or nonsectarian approaches in connection with school activities and fosters entanglement between government and religion.”
The ACLU claimed TIZA permitted and promoted Islamic prayer and rituals in school, in violation of Minnesota Charter School Law.
In June, TIZA appealed the Minnesota Department of Education’s “final determination letter regarding certain allegations of teacher licensure law violations,” which led to the $1.4 million fine.
The school requested all documents regarding the decision and says that the files it has received are “partial, inadequate and in violation of Med’s responsibilities.” Tisa’s attorney says that withholding the documents violates the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
TIZA demands the documents it requested, and civil penalties. It is represented by Erick Kara with Mohrman & Kaardal in Minneapolis.