Monday, June 18, 2018

Suit Over School's Curriculum on Islam Survives Motion To Dismiss On Pleadings

Hilsenrath v. School District of the Chathams, (D NJ, June 13, 2018), involves a disagreement between a school board and a parent over whether the curriculum in the middle school World Cultures and Geography course unconstitutionally promotes or endorses Islam. According to the court:
plaintiff alleges, C.H. has been exposed to two videos and a worksheet that contain materials that members of the Islamic faith use to express religious beliefs or proselytize others.’ The Complaint begins with a quotation from those materials: “May God help us all find the true faith, Islam. Ameen.” This is captioned as the Chatham school authorities’ “call for the conversion of 7th grade students.” Such materials, the Complaint alleges, have a primary purpose of promoting and advancing the Islamic religion. The Complaint also alleges that the curriculum gives insufficient attention to the Christian and Jewish religions.
The school board responded that:
The videos on Islam ... occupied a small part of the school year. They were part of a curriculum that covered many cultures and religions and would have been understood in that context.
The court refused to dismiss the complaint at the pleading stage, concluding:
However valid, or not, the defendants’ arguments may turn out to be, they furnish no basis for dismissal of the complaint. The information about the totality of the curriculum, for example, does not appear on the face of the complaint. And the sensitive balancing required by Lemon cannot be performed on the basis of mere allegations. Such considerations are simply premature.