American Schools Are Now Buying Prayer Rugs to Accommodate Changes in Population
It isn’t known if schools in America are installing holy water fonts next to the classroom doors, although they are small, plastic, inexpensive, and unobtrusive, nor is it known if Christian students are now allowed 20-seconds a day to say Grace before lunch, and there is little evidence that school districts have made the switch to Kosher foods to accommodate the dietary restrictions of Jewish students.
The St. Cloud, Minnesota school district, however, is devoting its resources to providing accommodations to Muslim students based solely on the basis of their religion, which under the current interpretation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, would be impermissible for Christian or Jewish students – or Hindu, Buddhist or pagan students, either.
The accommodations come as a result of a federal lawsuit filed in 2011 by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) alleging that the school district had created a hostile environment for Muslim students.
Somalis are the fastest growing group of residents in St. Cloud, a small city of 65,000 in central Minnesota comprising approximately 20 percent of the school district’s 10,000 students.
Now Muslims students are not only given time both in class and in private rooms for prayer, which is “required” by their faith, but providing prayer rugs for them to use – free of charge courtesy of the taxpayers.
The practice, which comes during the school day, disrupts classroom activities and leaves non-Muslim students confused and resentful that they do not have an excuse to leave the classroom and be dismissed early on Friday, while forcing teachers to design lesson plans and manage the classroom schedule so that mandatory activities like tests and presentations do not conflict with Muslim prayer time.
The school district has also taken steps of hiring full-time staff members to navigate cultural differences, but the efforts have been directed at non-Muslims.
One staff member said teachers needed to be “educated” to understand that Somali students do not make eye contact as a sign of respect, rather than helping students become comfortable looking others in the eye, a basic communication skill that will help them form friendships, fit in on sports teams, and eventually in jobs and careers where they live now.