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An Ohio high school that barred a Muslim from praying at school reached a compromise, allowing the Islamic ritual to be performed in certain classrooms at lunch as well as before and after class hours.
The 17-year-old junior, whose name was not released, was assisted by the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
School officials initially told the student the mandatory prayers could not be performed at school. The performance of the salat, or prayer, five times a day is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to face Mecca when they pray in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and just before sleeping.
CAIR said that after discussions with the school, officials reached a compromise, allowing the student to pray in the classrooms of teachers who are willing to let them be used for prayer before and after school and at lunch.
The school had insisted the Muslim student must pray in the lunch room with other students present.
“We were concerned that praying in front of so many people would be uncomfortable for the student,” said CAIR-Ohio Legal Director Jennifer Nimer. “Fortunately, we were able to reach a compromise with the school that met everyone’s needs.”
In November, a religious liberty group challenged a Dallas-area high school for prohibiting students from leaving the classroom to pray, saying the policy failed to accommodate Muslims.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sent a letter Nov. 8 to the principal of L.V. Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas, demanding he immediately “cease and desist from [the] school’s illegal decision to punish Muslim students” for exercising their right to pray.
The principal has said in an e-mail, “No students are to be allowed to leave [the] classroom at any time to go pray.”
One month later, after the group’s intervention, the district said there was some “confusion” regarding its policy and declared Muslim students, like others, have the right to pray on campus.
The district’s new policy said students can pray in designated places at the school during lunch and at other specific times.
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory prayers or Bible readings at public schools are unconstitutional, but subsequent cases have affirmed the Constitution allows for many forms of personal religious expression on campus.
Students can pray individually or in student-led groups on the school bus and on school grounds, except for during class sessions.
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