A federal judge has approved a settlement in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota against the Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy charter school.
The agreement, made public by the ACLU on Friday, Aug. 3, after a judge's approval, brings some closure to the three-year legal battle but doesn't provide the "bright line" decision Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the civil liberties group, had desired.
"Throughout this case, we had hoped for a court ruling finding that TiZA violated the Constitution, and establishing a bright line rule to guide other charter schools in the future," Samuelson said in a statement. "While none of the defendants had admitted wrongdoing, we believe that the settlement agreements were fair and represented the best outcome for this protracted litigation."
Under the agreement, Asad Zaman, who ran the TiZA charter school with locations in Blaine and Inver Grove Heights, will repay the state $17,500 and drop $360,000 worth of claims in bankruptcy court. He also cannot hold a leadership position in a charter school for three years.
The ACLU sued the charter school, the Minnesota Department of Education and the charter school's sponsor Islamic Relief in 2009, claiming leaders used taxpayer money to finance the teaching of religion, directly in violation of the establishment clause that separates church and state.
The ACLU's lawsuit included multiple claims that TiZA's leaders, its landlord and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota had blurred lines of control, resulting in millions of taxpayer dollars going to religious groups.
Legal pressures and other costs eventually forced the school to close.
While the settlement is not as definitive as the ACLU would have liked, leaders pointed to a "fact stipulation" filed as part of a previous settlement with the state Department of Education and charter school sponsor Islamic Relief, co-defendants in the case. It acknowledges TiZA illegally transferred money to religious groups, marketed itself as a community school that follows Islamic law and promoted Islam through its curriculum and connection to a religious after-school program.
The two sides reached a $1.4 million settlement in bankruptcy court in March, although Samuelson has said he doesn't expect the ACLU to recoup anywhere near the $2.4 million it spent suing the school. There is a long list of creditors with claims against the school.
In April, the ACLU reached a deal with Zaman and other leaders of the school, but details could not be released until a judge approved the settlement.
Court records signed in mid-July and filed in U.S. District Court this week confirm the approval.
Zaman and attorneys for the charter school could not be reached for comment Friday.