I’ve followed the story about the Tarik ibn Zayad Academy and allegations that it abuses its status as a state-funded charter school to teach Islam instead of a public-school curriculum for the last six weeks. Katherine Kersten first brought the story to our attention, for which local journalists have begun petitioning the Star Tribune to fire her. The state department of education found several potential issues for violation of laws intending to keep public schools from providing religious instruction, and notified the school today that it had to make changes to its Friday prayer efforts and the lack of transportation service for students who opt out of prayers, among other issues.
Local ABC affiliate KSTP has also continued to update the reporting on this story. Today they went to the school to determine how TiZA would respond to the state’s demand for corrective action. Instead, they found themselves at the center of the story as two TiZA officials attacked the news crew and stole their camera:
In an attempt to report about the new findings from the Department of Education, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS went to TiZA. While on school grounds, our crew was attacked by school officials. The two men were able to grab our camera and kept it until police arrived.
Our photographer was treated by paramedics after suffering minor injuries. …
Tarik ibn Zayad Academy, which focuses on Middle Eastern culture and shares a mosque with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, came under fire after a teacher alleged that the school was offering religious instruction in Islam to its students.
KSTP has a video report on their website. The tape starts off pleasantly, as the children run up to the camera to smile and wave, just like children anywhere would do. One man walks rapidly towards the camera and grabs it, while another unseen man assaults the cameraman. Later, the police would retrieve the camera, and the video shows the police cars responding to the emergency call from the news crew.
The action by the MnDoE should make clear that Kersten had the story essentially right. Local journalists attempting to intimidate her and the Strib — which has thus far refused to submit to this bullying — have some explaining to do. If she had written a story about a charter school illegally giving instructions in the Catholic or Mormon faith, these same journalists would have nominated her for an award.
Next, the MnDoE should seriously reconsider this school’s accreditation in light of the attack on KSTP’s news crew. If nothing else, it calls into question whether the administrators should have children in their care at a state-funded charter school, given their temperament. They conducted this assault in full view of the students. If TiZA continues to employ these two men, the state should pull all funding from the academy.
Update: Michelle’s been following this story as well.