ACLU: Chesterfield school staff allegedly forced student to run during Ramadan

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – Chesterfield Public School is investigating allegations of religious discrimination after school staff allegedly forced a student to run while fasting.

In a letter to Dr. Lane, the superintendent of Chesterfield Public Schools, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) claims a student from Bellwood Elementary School was forced to run in her physical education class while she was fasting during the month of Ramadan.

“The student claims that she was forced to run during physical education class despite informing her teacher that she was fasting,” the ACLU of Virginia wrote. “The teacher ignored the student’s special need and insisted that she run providing no accommodation. When the teacher deemed that her speed was unsatisfactory, it has been reported that he then repeatedly forced the entire class to continue running as punishment.”

The ACLU of Virginia said if the allegations are true, it would be a violation of her state rights and a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Both amendments provide the freedoms for students to practice their religion as public school students without interference.

The letter went on to say that, after being forced to run, the student complained of feeling nauseous and weak.

“We express our concern because forcing an individual who is currently fasting to exert themselves physically violates her constitutional rights and can be medically dangerous,” the letter continued.

In a response to the letter, School Board Attorney Wendell C. Roberts responded to the allegations on the behalf of Dr. Lane.

“Of course, the school division was alarmed and deeply concerned over the allegations of religious discrimination toward a Bellwood Elementary student fasting in observance of Ramadan. The school division will be conduction a complete review of what occurred at Bellwood Elementary on May 30, 2017,” he wrote.

Roberts wrote that the school division regrets that the parents believe that the school division was insensitive to her family’s observance to Ramadan. He added that a member of the school system’s administrative leadership team will contact the parent to discuss the school’s review of what occurred.

“The school division will take appropriate action depending on the outcome of this review and will also use this incident as a means to review our existing instructional practices, school board policies, as well as assess the need for professional development on non-western beliefs and customs and our obligations under state and federal antidiscrimination laws,” Roberts wrote.

“Dr. Lane very much appreciates your organization’s advocacy and thanks you for reaching out to the school division on their behalf,” he wrote.

Roberts went on to say the investigation will be treated as a Human Resources investigation.