Little Falls school boss pushes back against anti-Muslim sentiment

Stephen Jones, the school superintendent in Little Falls, Minn., pushed back and pushed back hard this week against criticism that his school system is making accommodations for Muslim students.

The dust-up was sparked by a letter last week in the Morrison County Record from a Fort Ripley reader.

He’s awarded special privileges including prayer rooms for Muslims, while excusing Muslim girls from wearing gym uniforms. Allowing special privileges to newcomers will not help them assimilate to our culture. The next group that comes along will demand even more special treatment from our school district.

Look no further than St. Cloud. Aside from all the troubles St. Cloud has brought upon themselves, they have installed foot baths, hired interpreters while putting great demands on the school system through legal action. Little Falls is not St. Cloud, but allowing prayer rooms and teaching Islam in world history class while ignoring Christianity is one step closer.

In this week’s issue, Jones didn’t hold back:

Prayer: We do not have “designated” prayer rooms in our buildings so the notion that rooms have been specially built or remodeled for this purpose is patently false. This district has not spent one single penny on prayer spaces for students. The middle school uses a number of spaces based on availability and the high school uses a classroom that is empty during that time. Each of these spaces serves multiple purposes throughout the school day.

Our students who participate in prayer have two minutes to walk from class, five minutes for their prayer time, and two minutes to walk back. My definition of “substantial disruption” is not compromised through this accommodation. There are consequences for students should the expectations laid out not be met.

Separation of church and state. Let’s be clear: There has been prayer in our school district for decades. Walk into the high school commons at lunchtime and you will see tables of students saying grace; assorted students say their own private devotions (many times before tests). Students are routinely excused from school for church-related activities, services and mission trips.

And then Jones pointed out the accommodations the school system makes for Christians:

What is Wednesday night at LFCS? Church night, of course — no activities after 6 p.m., no meetings, no games (except for the occasional playoff game that is out of our control). Some of our vacations are scheduled around Christian holidays (Christmas, Easter). There is an active chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The fact is that prayer and religious accommodation have already been happening for decades at LFCS.

“Why wouldn’t we as a school district offer accommodations to students that demonstrate a respect for their culture, religion, and to them as people regardless of who they are?” he said.

  • crystals

    Standing ovation for Mr. Jones.

  • Rob

    Gods bless Mr. Jones. Would that more authority figures had the courage to push back on the mean-spirited, narrow-minded and clueless chuzzlewits who pervade our public discourse.

  • Erik Warner

    As a lifelong resident of Little Falls, a grad of LFCHS, and parent of children who all graduated from LFCHS I say good on Superintendent Jones for taking this stand.

    There are many in this community who support his position.

  • lindblomeagles

    Watched an episode of “All in the Family” lately? The Sun Dance channel on Direct TV reruns the 1970s show one morning each week. Believe IT or NOT, the letter writer’s claims of “special privileges” and “un-American values” in school education WAS an episode on that show. People laughed at Archie Bunker and his incoherent, often hypocritical, and irresponsible comments back then, as I’m sure they do now. And yet, the reality is some members of our society are still Archie Bunkers. On the show, the target of “Bunkerism” were Blacks, Jews, Poles, Hispanics, and LGBT. Racial, religious, cultural, and economic mixing, to a Bunker, SHOULD BE prohibited. But, if the Little Falls School Supe asked this letter writer if he was a disciple of Archie Bunker, the writer would emphatically respond, “No! I am not! You’re just giving me more PC crap!” Our nation has changed, but just because the nation has changed, that doesn’t mean everyone’s attitudes has even if people don’t recognize their thoughts are trapped in an era some 40 years ago.

  • Doug

    Bravo, Mr. Jones.

  • MsSallyJoS

    Mr. Jones points out that students are routinely excused from school for religious reasons; that’s coded in Minnesota state law. A few schools in rural areas still dismiss early on Wednesday afternoon because that’s “church night” although this practice has grown uncommon because of the pressure of standardized testing. It’s still legal–rendering new claims about “discrimination” of Christians a bit silly.

  • Krista Espelien

    I am an old LFCHS graduate. It’s fantastic reading something about my old high school that makes me very proud, especially in these times of so much hate. Thank you, Mr. Jones!

  • Sue Wipp

    Thank you to this school official who understands what religious freedom means, and stands up for his student’s rights against anti-American sentiment of exclusion.