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December 14, 2010

Ill-Advised Religious Rights Suit Brought Against School District By Feds

Now those who are familiar with this blog know that I tend to be very supportive of individuals seeking religious accommodations by employers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and subsequent legislation. That is true across the board, including for Muslims. However, I think that the federal government has it dead wrong in this case, and that the demands of the employee in this case go far beyond what the law requires.

The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion.

In a civil rights case, the department said the school district in Berkeley, Ill., denied the request of Safoorah Khan on grounds that her requested leave was unrelated to her professional duties and was not set forth in the contract between the school district and the teachers union. In doing so the school district violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate her religious practices, the government said.

Now the facts of this case make it clear that Khan’s request was not a reasonable one. Not only was this untenured teacher in only her second year in the district insisting that terms of the district’s union contract be set aside to allow her to make the hajj, but she was demanding to be allowed out of the classroom for THREE WEEKS. And it is this last point that I leads me to the conclusion that the accommodation she sought was unreasonable.

One of the things that every educator recognizes is that student learning decreases when their regular teacher is not present in the classroom. That is why districts try to avoid taking teachers out of the classroom for workshops and in-service days, and strongly encourage teachers to schedule appointments with doctors for outside of school hours. Quite bluntly, the quality of instruction students receive declines when the teacher is not there and is replaced by a substitute – after all, most substitutes are not trained in the teacher’s subject area (and may have as little as one semester of college credits – or less), and even if the teacher leaves detailed lesson plans the substitute will not do as good a job teaching the students as the teacher does. A three week teacher absence will do grave harm to the students in that teacher’s class – and while such absences are sometimes time sensitive and unavoidable, this one was not.

Given the fact that the dates of the hajj move – and that there is not an obligation to make the hajj in a particular year or by a certain age – it is not unreasonable for the district expect that Khan would wait until the dates of the hajj more closely coincide with the realities of the school calendar rather than disrupt the academic environment.

Now that may sound harsh, but remember that the law only requires that an employer make a reasonable accommodation for the employee. If she were looking to take a day or two of her personal leave – or even seeking a day or two of unpaid leave of absence – then I would agree that it would constitute a reasonable accommodation of her religion. A three week absence by a teacher that can be avoided is, in the end, not a reasonable accommodation that a district ought to be expected to make in light of the sort of negative impact it will have upon the students in Ms. Khan’s class..





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Comments on Ill-Advised Religious Rights Suit Brought Against School District By Feds

It gets even better, bro.

The Haj is a five day Allah fest. Add in two days for traveling, and we're talking a week off..five days if she structured part of the time on a weekend!

This is someone using a politically sympathetic Justice Department to try to win a victory for special treatment that applies to Muslims only..and milking a situation to make a financial killing.

Just another case of the Obama Administration observing what seems to be it's first commandment - thou shalt appease Islam.

|| Posted by Rob Miller, December 16, 2010 08:22 PM ||

Even agreeing with your entire point -- and I do -- I'm pointing to the specific problem created by what the suit seeks. Missing three full weeks of school, especially at that time of the year, is simply not something that a teacher can expect a school to reasonably accommodate without a compelling reason (such as medical issues).

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, December 16, 2010 10:18 PM ||
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