The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit in January 2009 Federal District Court against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) and the Minnesota Department of Education stating that the charter school has violated the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by using taxpayer money to illegally promote religion. The Minnesota Department of Education was named as a co-defendant because it has failed to provide proper oversight by disbursing taxpayer funds despite TIZA using such public funds for religious promotion.
TIZA is a charter school organized under Minnesota law as a non-profit corporation, sponsored by Islamic Relief USA with campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine. TIZA is supported by tax funds from both the State of Minnesota and the United States Government. The Minnesota Department of Education is charged with approval and oversight of charter schools and with certification of schools' entitlement to state funding. The Commissioner has certified funds for TIZA despite its constitutional violations.
TIZA operations are problematic for a number of reasons including:
Also named as defendants in the case are Islamic Relief USA based in California, the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, and individual TIZA Board members. The complaint was filed by ACLU-MN cooperating attorneys Peter Lancaster and Megan McKenzie from Dorsey and Whitney.
8.3.2012 - Settlement agreements were approved by the court. This brings the majority of the ACLU's case with TiZA to a close. The only part that remains is bankruptcy court proceedings. Highlights from the settlement include, Asad Zaman agreed to pay back $17,500 to the State of Minnesota, in addition he dropped $360,000 + in bankruptcy claims. Asad Zaman, Mahrous Kandil and Asif Rahman also agreed to not serve in leadership positions in Minnesota public charter schools for 3 years.
7.15.11 - IRUSA, ACLU-MN, and the Commissioner of the MN Department of Education filed a joint motion to lift automatic stay on TiZA in order to allow IRUSA and the Commissioner the ability to liquidate their claims against TiZA, to allow the district court judge to rule on the ACLU's pending motion to confirm settlement with the Commissioner (which includes determining the designation of confidentiality for certain TiZA documents), and to allow the ACLU to liquidate its claims against TiZA. A hearing of this motion will be held on August 11, 2011.
Also on the 15th of July, IRUSA, ACLU-MN, and the Commissioner of the MN Department of Education filed a memorandum or law in support of their joint motion to lift automatic stay. The lift of automatic stay would permit liquidation of liabilities that TiZA owes and allow the Court to rule on the confidentiality of certain documents relating to major conflicts of interests among TiZA and associated entities, and thus helping the Court determining critical issues related to this case.
The plaintiffs find that allowing proceedings to continue will enhance judicial economy and reduce the costs to parties, it will not burden the bankruptcy estate and relief the parties from preparing for trial. They also find that the creditors have a good likelihood to prevail on the merits.1
It was thus requested that the Court modifies or lifts the stay to allow finality and liquidation of the plaintiffs' claims against TiZA, and to allow Judge Frank to confirm the settlement between ACLU and the Commissioner.
1The argument made to lift the automatic stay was based on the fact that filing for bankruptcy does not erase a plaintiff's claims and its opportunity to litigate or the debtor's liability toward the plaintiff. The stay should be lifted in appropriate circumstances and permit proceedings to continue in their place or origin if no great prejudice to the bankruptcy estate would result and to relieve the bankruptcy court from handling matter that could be litigated elsewhere.
6.30.11 - by operation of law, TiZA ceased operations as a public charter school and starting July 1, 2011, would no longer receive state or federal aid.
TiZA's application to switch to a new authorizer was denied by the Department of Education due to lack of necessary documentation, and the school's request for an injunction to remain open was denied by court.
After its new authorizer application and court order request failed on June 30, 2011, TiZA filed for bankruptcy protection.
4.20.11 - Judge rebuff's TiZA's third attempt to dismiss the ACLU's lawsuit, by denying their motion for summary judgment.
2.18.11 - At the hearing regarding TiZA's motion for summary judgment, Judge Frank said from the bench that a June trial is likely. The ACLU-MN is still awaiting his official ruiling.
2.3.11 - The ACLU-MN settles its cases with Islamic Relief and the Minnesota Department of Education. As part of the settlement agreement Islamic Relief will pay the ACLU-MN $250,000 (to cover legal costs).
2.3.11 - In response to the January 10, motion by TiZA for summary judgment, the ACLU filed their response on February 3. ACLU Response opposing TiZAs motion for summary judgment documents
2.3.11 - ACLU files motion with court to approve the settlement agreements with Minnesota Commissioner of Education and Islamic Relief. Motion to Confirm Settlement Agreement Documents
1.31.11 - the ACLU reached a settlement with IRUSA and the Commissioner. TiZA had not reached any with the ACLU or any other party involved in the case.
1.7.11 - the Commissioner of Education and Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) filed documents supporting their Motions for Summary Judgment. Documents relating to the motions are available below. On January 10, TIZA also filed documents supporting their Motions for Summary Judgment.
The Commissioner's Summary Judgment Motion seeks to have the ACLU's claims against her dismissed. The Commissioner is also seeking an order to enforce a clause in the charter school contract that requires TiZA to indemnify the Commissioner. IRUSA's Summary Judgment Motion also seeks an order to enforce the indemnification clause found in the charter school contract. A hearing on the motions is scheduled for February 18th at 1:00 PM.
TIZA Motion for Summary Judgment Documents
In May 2009 the court issued an order denying TIZA's second motion to dismiss and the parents motion to join the suit. You can read the May order denying motions.
In February 2009 TiZA filed yet another motion to dismiss our lawsuit against them, despite the fact that in the summer of 2009, the court dismissed their counterclaims they filed against us. You can read TiZA's 2nd motion to dismiss. A small group of parents also filed a motion to join the suit to represent the interest of their students in the case.
In Summer 2009 TIZA filed a counterclaim against the ACLU-MN alleging, among other claims, defamation and tortious interference. The ACLU-MN filed a motion to dismiss their claims and in December 2009 the Court issued an Order Dismissing Counterclaims.
You can also read TIZA organizations and individuals to learn about TIZA's various connections.