A group of charter school, religious and black community leaders called Wednesday for the state to end what it called unfair scrutiny of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA).
The half-dozen people who spoke at a news conference at the State Capitol alleged that critics -- especially the state Department of Education -- have targeted the Inver Grove Heights charter school because most of its students are minority group members and Muslim.
The heavy scrutiny amounts to "a high-tech lynching," said Eric Mahmoud, executive director of Harvest Preparatory, a Minneapolis charter school. Mahmoud pointed out that TiZA students have scored well on standardized tests even though many come from poor families.
The group said it may file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
The coalition includes an imam and a retired Lutheran pastor, as well as representatives from the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP and an organization called WISE that described itself as an education watchdog group.
TiZA must follow the law, said Chas Anderson, deputy education commissioner, in a written statement Wednesday. "The Minnesota Department of Education has a responsibility and a requirement under state law to investigate complaints ...," she wrote.
TiZA has faced intense scrutiny in the past year, including a probe that led Department of Education officials to conclude that some of the school's teachers lack proper licenses.
The school appealed that ruling, saying it could lead to the loss of an estimated $1.4 million in public funding. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota also sued, claiming the public school endorses religion in violation of the Constitution.