Lawyers for a Twin Cities Muslim-oriented charter school say newly released documents show the Minnesota Department of Education targeted the school for investigation. They even made inquiries about the daughter of a Minnesota Congressman who attends classes there.
Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy, also called TiZA, has been the subject of numerous Minnesota Department of Education inspections and investigations in the last 18 months. A target, say school lawyers, because of its Muslim connections.
"It's for religious reasons," said Erick Kaardal, a lawyer for the school.
Kaardal says TiZA gets unfair attention because of its Muslim immigrant population, even though it is a Minnesota public school.
"Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy is a public school open to any student that applies. It has a public school curriculum. It's not a religious school, but apparently because of the calumny in the press and the defamation and slander, TiZA has been targeted," he said.
Last week the Minnesota Department of Education was forced to release 10,000 pages of documents related to its investigations. Among them was a letter questioning whether the family of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison leapfrogged a waiting list for admission.
A department spokesman first denied an investigation, and then issued a written statement that said the department was responding to complaints.
"The investigations currently being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education regarding TiZA are the result of complaints submitted to the department," said Randy Wanke, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Education, in a written statement.
"The Department of Education will not allow baseless claims to distract it from its legal responsibility to examine the issues raised by those complaints," the statement said.
TiZA lawyers are demanding more documents that might illuminate what they call the "defamation" of a great school.
"It uses a public school curriculum, there are non-Muslim teachers teaching," said Kaardal. "It is a perfectly good school with great test results."
Meanwhile, TiZA "categorically denies" any student received special treatment and that it has provided the state with evidence to prove it.
Congressman Ellison's office did not respond to WCCO's request for comment.