Lewiston Student Forbidden To Pray

The family of a 7th-grade Muslim student says she was forbidden to pray inside Lewiston Middle School by school officials. Ismail Warsame says his niece had been praying on her free time ever since school started in September. But he said school administrators told her last week that praying wasn’t allowed in school, and that her mother would have to take her outside the building to pray. Warsame says the family contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington D.C., and that his niece was briefly allowed to pray after the organization contacted the school…but that a teacher once again kept her from praying the next day.

Superintendent Leon Levesque says the incident is the result of a miscommunication. According to the 2003 guidelines set by the No Child Left Behind Act, no student can be forbidden from praying at school during non-instructional time, as long as it doesn’t disrupt others. The law states that school officials can’t encourage or discourage prayer, or participate in such activities. Levesque says no Lewiston student has even been kept from praying on school property. He says this student had requested that a room be made available for praying. Levesque says Lewiston schools strive to be neutral and don’t provide prayer rooms so as not to appear to promote religious practices.

Warsame says his niece never requested a prayer room, and that the issue only arose when school officials told her she couldn’t pray on campus because the school lacked a prayer room. Warsame says he also believes the incident is the result of a misunderstanding, and wouldn’t mind meeting with school officials to clarify any misconceptions about Muslim prayer.

Catherine Parrotta,

Posted: Wednesday, November 25 2009, 01:54 PM EST

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