SEATTLE — An Islamic civil liberties group called on Seattle Public Schools to apologize for what the organization called “inappropriate” remarks in a letter sent to parents on Tuesday.
The Council on American Islamic Relations-Washington says when the district announced the year’s state testing schedule in an email to Thurgood Marshall Elementary School parents, which coincides with the religious holiday Ramadan, it suggested parents allow children to eat on testing days and make sure their students get sufficient sleep.
“If they are committed to making education equally accessible to all then they need to be committed to honoring diverse religious practices in the community,” CAIR-WA Executive Director Masih Fouladi said in a statement.
Ramadan, which will be observed from May 5-June 4 this year, involves dawn-to-dusk fasting with late evening meals. During the holiday, eating or drinking even a sip of water during the day is prohibited.
According to CAIR-WA, the email read in part:
“Please consider the following:
- Allow your child to eat, or participate in partial day fasting, on testing days.
- Ensure your child is getting sufficient sleep the night before testing days.
- Make sure your child is eating prior coming to school to provide enough energy for the day.”
A sample letter provided by the school district also says schools will offer morning testing sessions if students observe fasting, and educators will monitor students for fatigue.
CAIR-WA said Ramadan is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim calendar, and it was “inappropriate for a school to suggest how children should celebrate a holiday.”
The organization asked the district and Thurgood Marshall to retract their comments, apologize, and have a conservation about testing accommodations for students observing Ramadan.
“We encourage them to work with us on ensuring they respect and honor the religious practices of all of their students,” Fouladi said.
Seattle Public Schools says it created an internal team that included staff who observe Ramadan that worked to provide school-based guidance on supporting families during the holiday.
"The intent is for school leaders to make consideration at each school level to maximize student success, not to ask families to accommodate testing and abandon a fundamental requirement of faith," Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Tim Robinson wrote in an e-mail.
District guidelines that were provided to principals advises that if a parent requests their child be tested before the start of Ramadan, the school can make a "reasonable attempt to honor that request."
However, Robinson said local districts cannot adjust the state's testing period.