While a Twin Cities-area charter school has been sued for allegedly promoting Islam, a Rochester school catering to Muslim students says religion is not part of its curriculum.
"We teach language, we don't teach religion," said Abdulkadir Abdalla, director of Rochester Math and Science Academy, known until this year as Adam Abdulle Academy. "It's public money -- we can't teach religion."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, or TiZA, saying the Inver Grove Heights school 70 miles north of Rochester has used taxpayer money in promoting religion. The school allows prayer sessions during school hours, prefers Muslim dietary practices by serving certain foods and endorses Muslim clothing rules, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
TiZA and the Rochester school have no affiliation with each other.
Rochester Math and Science Academy teaches Arabic and Somali-language lessons, and Abdalla said the school changed its name to become more inclusive and attract other students. This year, 183 students are enrolled in grades K-7 and nearly all of them are minorities. The school is able to teach up to grade 8.
Students are allowed to take a five-minute break during times of prayer, but Abdalla said the invocation is not school-organized. There is no special area for prayer, he said.
The Minnesota Department of Education launched an investigation into TiZA last year, which found the school was mostly in compliance with state and federal law. The school was told to take corrective actions regarding Friday prayer services and ordered it to make bus rides home available right after school ends, instead of after an after-school religious program.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.