School Stops Scheduling Class Time For Muslim Prayer
8:25 AM, Jul 27, 2007
A San Diego school that drew international attention for setting aside time for Muslim students to pray in the classroom will no longer do so, it was reported Friday. Instead, Carver Elementary's schedule will be reconfigured so students can say their required midday prayers during lunch. Courts have long upheld students' rights to pray on their own during lunch or recess, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. When the new school year begins, Carver will have two lunch periods, including one that will fall when Muslims typically say their midday prayer -- between 1 and 2 p.m., the newspaper reported. Another controversial element of Carver's educational program geared toward Muslim students -- single-gender classes -- will be eliminated, the Union-Tribune reported. Superintendent Carl Cohn stressed in a July 18 memo that single-gender education is legal under federal law, but at Carver it "has become a serious distraction from learning rather than a vehicle to promote learning," according to the newspaper. Carver added the single-gender classes and a daily 15-minute in-class break for voluntary prayers last September after it absorbed a failed Arabic language charter school that served primarily Somali Muslims. Since a substitute teacher publicly complained about Carver's practices in April, the San Diego Unified School District has been inundated by letters and phone calls from as far away as Europe and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Union-Tribune. Some alleged that the school was violating the separation of church and state by giving Muslims time to pray. The district maintained that it is legally required to approve students' request for religious accommodation.