A federal judge issued a long-awaited order Thursday in the case of embattled charter school Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, which faces an ACLU lawsuit claiming it promoted religion.
The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, allows for the release of a hotly contested document in the case: a 29-page stipulation of facts that the American Civil Liberties Union and two co-defendants agreed to produce when they earlier reached a settlement in the suit.
Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU in Minnesota, said he was unable to detail the stipulations Thursday. But a newsletter to ACLU members had called it "a startling glimpse into the religious entanglement that is possible at a public charter school."
"Ninety-eight or 99 percent of the stipulations will be made public," Samuelson said. "We have to edit out the 1 to 2 percent the judge said we couldn't include."
The private information is tied to documents between TiZA and its public relations firm Tunheim Partners.
In his order, Frank said the Tunheim documents, which contain "billing and rate information, strategic communications, and letters from third parties that were attached to strategic communications," will remain sealed.
The ACLU sued the school in 2009 for promoting religion and included the Minnesota Department of Education and Islamic Relief, the school's authorizer, for failure to supervise the academy.
The co-defendants eventually settled with the ACLU, but one of the settlementcontingencies - that a stipulation of facts document be agreed upon and released to the public - had never been fulfilled because TiZA asked for a protective order sealing many of the document's supporting materials.
Samuelson said the three parties - the ACLU, the state and Islamic Relief - have planned a conference call for today to finalize the changes to the document and could release it today, as well.
The thousands of pages of supporting documents that form the basis of the stipulations could be released early next week, he said.
TiZA has argued that the release of the document would taint any jury pool ahead of its trial.
An attorney for TiZA could not be reached Thursday.
In a second motion, the ACLU asked that the TiZA trial be a bench trial, overseen by a judge, instead of a jury trial.
Frank denied the motion.
"The Court concludes that the fact that the ACLU has made and maintained a demand for a jury trial, along with the fact that the ACLU seeks substantial monetary relief, makes it proper to place the case before a jury," he wrote.
Frank also ordered that TiZA is liable to Islamic Relief for $267,500, the settlement payment the school's authorizer made to the ACLU in the settlement of claims against it.
TiZA, at one point a 540- student charter school with campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine, disbanded in August. The ACLU suit continues.