Six parents who are trying to halt the San Diego Unified School District‘s anti-Islamophobia initiative were delivered a blow Tuesday by a federal judge who denied their motion for a preliminary injunction against the program.
In her order, U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia A. Bashant of the Southern District of California rejected the group’s argument that the anti-Muslim bullying program violates the First Amendment.
The six SDUSD parents, as well as two organizations named in the lawsuit—Citizens for Quality Education San Diego and San Diego Asian Americans for Equality Foundation–allege that the school district’s initiative establishes “a subtle, discriminatory scheme” based on religion in violation of the Constitution.
The district claims the initiative is part of an effort to protect all students from bullying, intimidation and discrimination.
“As we have done with other vulnerable segments of our student population, our intent in drawing attention to the bullying of Muslim students, in particular, is to raise awareness of the issue, and to promote tolerance and understanding,” a statement on the SDUSD website reads.
The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund is representing the six parents and two organizations.
“The court’s comprehensive ruling rightfully recognized the sensitive First Amendment concerns in the public schools,” said Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director. “But the judge failed to address the critical facts and well-established constitutional law proving that the district is clearly discriminating in favor of one religious sect. Despite today’s ruling, our clients remain fully confident they have the Constitution on their side.”
FCDF attorneys are evaluating the next steps with the plaintiffs, which includes a possible appeal to the Ninth Circuit, according to an FCDF statement.