Chesterfield Schools investigating allegations of discrimination against Muslim student

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — In a letter sent to the superintendent of Chesterfield County Public Schools, the ACLU of Virginia says a Bellwood Elementary School  parent approached them after her daughter was allegedly forced to run in gym class despite telling her gym teacher she was fasting for Ramadan, a practice during the Islamic holy month where Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown.

“It’s a problem,” said Leslie Mehta, legal director for the ACLU of Virginia.

Mehta wrote the letter. She says the mother also claims that when the teacher wasn’t satisfied with the pace of her daughter, “he then repeatedly forced the entire class to continue running as punishment.”

“We thought it was a reasonable accommodation for the student to just get a different assignment for the day,” Mehta explained.

According to that letter, the student started feeling nauseous.

“We certainly had concerns about a student who is fasting all day,” Mehta said.

Mehta says if true, it violates state and federal laws protecting religious freedom.

“With the First Amendment you have a right to be able to freely exercise your religion,” Mehta explained.

The ACLU has asked Chesterfield to investigate. The school system sent a letter in response saying in part,

“The school division was alarmed and is deeply concerned over the allegations of religious discrimination toward a Bellwood Elementary student fasting in observance of Ramadan. The school division will be conducting a complete review of what occurred.”

“We appreciate the fact that they are looking into this and taking this matter seriously,” Mehta said.

The school system says it will take appropriate action based on the results of its investigation.

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