Skip to comments.Finding a place to pray (Parent wants a private space for her 10-year-old son for Muslim prayer)
Posted on 02/19/2009 6:58:12 PM PST by Coleus
WAYNE Rola Awwad wants a private space for her 10-year-old son at Albert Payson Terhune Elementary School to exercise his right to Muslim prayer.
The school district had offered to let him pray at recess either outside or in a classroom while classmates are there. And that, says Awwad, is "unacceptable." mAll students are constitutionally guaranteed the right to pray during the school day as long as it doesn't interfere with learning. But Wayne is struggling with what accommodations to make if a Muslim student requests privacy for prayer. The answer in other North Jersey districts ranges from providing access to the principal's office, to providing a spare room. But school administrators in suburban Wayne have been weighing the question since fall, when Awwad asked the principal to allow her son, Adam, a few minutes of privacy each afternoon to pray. The district says it's concerned about allowing a young pupil to be unsupervised, even for a short time, and Awwad said her request was met with resistance.
"Why can't he be on his own for five minutes praying?" said Awwad, a Palestinian who moved to the United States from Jordan 11 years ago. She said it's important to her that her children go to public school and make diverse friends. But she also wants them to be able to practice their religion. "All I want from the school is to let my son pray in a private place in a small room, say his prayer and go back to class," she said.
Muslims pray five times a day to reaffirm their faith and submit to follow divine commandments. The prayer is said during prescribed times; in the fall, when the clocks roll back at the end of daylight savings time, the afternoon prayer must be said during the school day, Awwad explained. Federal guidelines say schools can't prevent students from praying during school hours, but schools can't sponsor religious activities or lead students in prayer. But the guidelines don't provide specifics on how schools should handle requests like Awwad's. And because that's left to the discretion of school administrators, North Jersey districts have responded with a hodgepodge of approaches.
In Passaic, an elementary school student is allowed to pray privately in a classroom storage closet, Superintendent Robert Holster said. A middle school principal in Cliffside Park allows a student to pray in her office, Superintendent Michael Romagnino said. If an elementary school child wanted a private place to pray, the superintendent said he would ask the principal to make an accommodation in an available office. And Teaneck High School sets aside a room where Muslim students are allowed to go and say their prayers, said district spokesman Dave Bicofsky. Wayne's district does not even have a consistent approach among its schools, The Record found in interviews with parents and the administration.
Awwad said when she first made her request, she was advised to pick up Adam at lunch and take him out of school to say prayers, which she has done for the last several months. When she pressed to have him allowed to pray in the building, the district offered to let Adam pray outside during lunch, or in the classroom during recess when the weather was bad. But another elementary school principal in the district had offered to let a student pray in an office. School board Attorney John Croot said the district thought it had made an "acceptable accommodation" when it offered to let Muslim students pray outside during lunch, or inside in a classroom in days of bad weather. He said the district is trying to strike a balance between constitutional principles.
For school officials, the issue is complicated by the degree of religious practice: For instance, federal guidelines specifically mention a student's right to quietly read the Bible during lunch. But the guidelines are not clear on what a district should do when the expression of religion is more demonstrative, as it is in Adam's case. "Then you are talking about a public school district,'' Croot said. "You have to carefully weigh the constitutional issues. It's a balance between the free exercise of religion and the concept of the separation of church and state. It's a public school district and you have to consider those constitutional issues.'' Croot said he sought guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and was advised the district should have a consistent approach.
Awwad told the district in a letter that its latest accommodation "is unacceptable." Her son would have to put his prayer mat and touch his forehead on the damp ground if he prayed outside. And she said Adam was worried that other students would ridicule him if he prayed in the classroom. Croot said "nothing has been foreclosed yet. We are still in discussions. We have indicated one possible accommodation that would have been acceptable, but there may be other accommodations that we could reach."
Read the U.S. Department of Education guidelines on prayer in schools * The guidelines state: "Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction, subject to the same rules designed to prevent material disruption of the educational program that are applied to other privately initiated expressive activities.''
Many school districts in NJ and the USA are making accommodations for some religions and not others. As you can see in the article districts are helping out. In some NJ school districts they are now closing for El Eid and Ramadan and listing the religious holiday by name, you don't see that with Christmas. The word Christmas is replaced by Winter or Holiday and remember, Christmas is a Federal Holiday and by law it should be listed as such because a school district is a public entity. And just don't dress as Jesus for Halloween or bring in a Bible or pray before school starts or before meals, you will be told not to. Is it OK to say Christmas? No way! It's Holidays or Winter Recess, no more Christmas break. Check the Calendar, for Christmas; it's called Holiday Recess
In font of a Urinal would be good.
Bigotry towards Christians and pandering to Islam. Sickening.
It is “unconstitutional” to pray in school in America. Didn’t these idiots get the memo?
The reason that muslims get away with this and Christians don’t is because Christians aren’t pushy. And they won’t lop off your head.
Is he praying for our muslim president? For the end of the Great Satan?
If it's that important to them, a move back to Jordan would be the way to go.
Adam Awwad can use a restroom stall for all the privacy he needs to get Allah out of his sytem. He just shouldn’t leave the door open.
I’ve seen muslims who live in islamic states just move off to the side and pray where ever they are... they didn’t need a private room or a place for ritual washing.
Dear Mrs. Awwad:
One the reasons people leave places like your former home is because the religion there has failed to make accommodations to modern times. This country is what it is because Christians, Jews and others have accommodated their faiths, without compromising their principles, to the realities of public education and public and private employment. You and your fellow believers need to seriously decide what to do: accommodate to this nation or go back home and accept all the disagreeable parts of living in a nation which accommodated itself to a medival religion.
Your choices are: open a private school, get a ruling from whatever authority you accept that schooltime and worktime prayers can be performed without being on the floor on a rug, allow prayers to pray five times a day but let them shift the times to accommodate their needs. Your faith is the one which needs to accommodate to modernity, not the other way around.
Someone who prays daily on her own time
Does Little Awwad have a butcher knife?
What a bummer.
Poor Awwad cant pray ... or stone other children... poor kid
That was a good post. Too bad you are infidel and she won’t be able to read it.
Back in whatever hellhole he came out of.
In fact, give him the same privileges as Christians. Which is bupkiss.
Then why don’t you go back to your own country. I bet there are plenty of places to pray there.
Geez these cute little muslim kids.
They blow up so quickly.
Screw the little devil worshipper.
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