Minnesota: Taxpayers fund private rooms with Islamic prayer rugs, halal lunches in public schools | Creeping Sharia
Posted on March 27, 2016 by creeping
Bishar Hassan spends his days navigating the halls and classrooms of Talahi Elementary School, working to embrace and empower the dozens of Somali students who have arrived since the start of the year.
Across town, his brother, Ahmed Hassan, fills a similar role at Discovery Community School, another campus that has experienced a recent surge in enrollment of Somali students.
The Hassan brothers are part of a growing community of Somali residents in this central Minnesota city of 65,000. The recent influx of immigrant students is nothing new in the St. Cloud school district, where English-language-learner enrollment has spiked by 350 percent in the past 15 years.
Today, roughly 20 percent of the district’s 10,000 students are English-language learners, many of them with ties to the East African nation of Somalia.
Similar situations are developing in districts around the country.
The United States is now home to the largest number of foreign-born black people in its history—and many are K-12 students enrolled in public schools.
Nationwide, nearly 35,000 K-12 students report that they speak Somali at home, making it the eighth most common native language for English-learners in public schools, according to federal data from the 2013-14 school year.
Despite recognition from the U.S. Department of Education for its efforts to educate ELLs, the district hasn’t been able to close a yawning achievement gap between English-learners and native English speakers—a problem that vexes most school systems.
Talahi Elementary, where roughly 45 percent of students are Somali, is a state “priority school,” a label attached to Minnesota’s most persistently low-performing Title I schools. With test scores among the bottom 5 percent in the state, the state department of education is closely monitoring Talahi’s performance and turnaround plans.
While St. Cloud works to support the English-language development of its students, district officials say it has been just as important to make Somali students and their families feel welcome in schools and part of the community, which remains a work in progress.
In the district’s middle and high schools, Muslim students have access to private rooms with prayer rugs for the five daily prayers. Districtwide, school lunch menus provide pork-free options for students, and staff members try to spur the newcomer students’ interest in sports, culture clubs, and other extracurricular activities to develop connections beyond the classroom.
It bears repeating, “Similar situations are developing in districts around the country.” Many examples here, including:
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