After losing legally required oversight, TiZA officials held out only a slim hope of keeping the charter school open.
A day after state officials e-mailed him shutdown instructions, the director of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) advised parents to find new schools for their children while holding out hope that, "by some miracle," the charter school can stay open...
In the eyes of the state, it has already ceased to exist as a public school. Left without legally required oversight when a new state law took effect Friday, the school has been told that it will no longer receive state aid.
Summer school will not resume Tuesday, Zaman said, but school officials are considering a challenge to the state Education Department in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
And after two adverse rulings from a judge and the state since Wednesday evening, TiZA already has taken a highly unusual step by filing for bankruptcy protection.
"Wow. That's unusual," said Sandro Lanni, founder of the Charter School Management Corp., when told of TiZA's filing. In a decade of providing business services to more than 100 charter schools -- none in Minnesota -- the California-based company has seen a few close, but "I've never heard of one doing bankruptcy," Lanni said.
Neither has George Singer, a Minneapolis attorney with 18 years of experience in bankruptcy law. "It's rare," he said.TiZA, which is a nonprofit corporation as well as a public school, listed just over $84,000 in liabilities in its bankruptcy petition. It also listed unknown and disputed amounts sought by three adversaries in a contentious lawsuit over claims that the school has promoted religion...
A federal judge on Wednesday shot down a Twin Cities charter school's bid to dismiss an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit claiming it promotes Islam, clearing the way for a summer trial.
In a ruling spelling out why the 2-year-old case merits a trial, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank offered an unusually detailed account of close ties between the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy and the religious organizations that acted as its landlords…
The ruling also saddles the school with about $2 million in legal fees incurred by co-defendants in the case — an expense O'Meara said could shutter the charter school, which has campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine…
Frank's ruling cites agreements in which landlords for TiZA transferred campus ownership, which suggests the landlords envisioned a religious purpose to the facilities. The ruling points out that the TiZA officers named in the lawsuit were also involved with the religious organizations that leased the facilities…
A Twin Cities charter school — in the spotlight for years over policies that some say promote Islam — has agreed to make changes to appease state education officials.
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy officials on Thursday extended school hours, changed the student dress code and adopted a new religious accommodations policy.
With campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine, the changes were adopted so the Minnesota Education Department would approve its application for a new overseer to manage the school, said Asad Zaman, the academy's executive director.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the academy in federal court over claims it promotes religion with its school policies and close ties to its current overseer,
Islamic Relief-USA. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in June.
The academy, known as TiZA, will lose its current overseer June 30 because of a new state law banning out-of-state sectarian groups from performing the function. Without an overseer, the school would have to shut down.
TiZA's current authorizer is the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Islamic Relief-USA…
Shamus O'Meara, an attorney representing the school, said he does not expect the school's policy changes to affect the ACLU federal lawsuit.
Teresa Nelson, an attorney with the ACLU of Minnesota, said the lawsuit is about more than the school's policies.
"Those are issues," she said. "But our concern is about the overall connection that the school has with religious organizations."
A federal judge said this week that witness intimidation by any party will not be tolerated in a lawsuit involving a charter school accused of illegally promoting Islam.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota is suing Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) for allegedly crossing the line between religion and public education, a claim school officials have denied.
The ACLU argued that administrators at the Inver Grove Heights school have intimidated potential witnesses or tried to dissuade them from testifying about TiZA, and asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham to issue an order protecting them.
In an order filed Wednesday, the judge stopped short of granting all of the ACLU's requests, but she said no one should harass or tamper with witnesses. In addition, two prospective witnesses, Khalid Elmasry and Janeha Edwards, may request that only attorneys attend their depositions…
The Pioneer Press in St. Paul reports that a federal judge has allowed part of a lawsuit to go forward against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) that claims the charter school blurred the line between religion and public education. "The most important take-away from the decision is that the court recognized that we have taxpayer standing to bring the case," said Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. "We will be able to exercise one of our roles in protecting public money and protecting the use of public money." The school's sponsor, Islamic Relief USA, and Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren also are named in the suit. The school was founded in 2003 and teaches about 430 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine. The school got about $3.8 million in state aid this year. The lawsuit argues that TiZA violates the First Amendment by sharing space with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, promoting prayer in school, and endorsing Muslim clothing rules and dietary practices. The suit also says TiZA "advances, endorses, and prefers the 'Muslim religion' over other religious or nonsectarian approaches and fosters entanglement between government and religion.”
TiZA and other defendants sought the lawsuit's dismissal, arguing that the case should have been first heard administratively within the state Education Department before it was brought in court. However, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank allowed the lawsuit to continue because taxpayers fund the school. "Specifically, plaintiff has met the first prong by alleging that the commissioner caused taxpayer funds to be distributed under state funding statutes and the second prong by alleging that those funds were distributed to a pervasively sectarian group in violation of the Establishment Cause," he wrote. The school also claimed it resolved some issues in the lawsuit. After a 2008 investigation, the state Education Department recommended the charter school modify its communal prayers on Fridays and provide after-school busing at different times for students not participating in religious activities. TiZA officials have said they have taken corrective actions on those issues. But the judge said the school did not correct or address all the claimed First Amendment violations, such as its religiously based dress code. If TiZA voluntarily corrected the complained-about behavior, the school could resume the activities at any time, he wrote. The court refused to dismiss Islamic Relief as a defendant, because the group is the charter's sponsor and is responsible for oversight functions, including fiscal and student performance requirements, Frank wrote.