CAIR files civil rights complaint against Edina schools, says students suspended for using pro-Palestinian chant

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it is filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against Edina Public Schools.

This comes after CAIR says Edina High School suspended two students who participated in a school walkout in support of Palestine last month.

RELATED: Edina High School students plan walkout in protest of conditions in Gaza

CAIR Minnesota says the two students, who are Somali American girls, were suspended for three days for using the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

During a news conference on Monday, CAIR leaders said that the suspension is a violation of the students’ constitutional rights and an attempt to suppress their voices.

“It’s our contention that the Edina High School’s actions in suspending these two high school students based purely on their speech also constitutes discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin,” said Bruce Nestor, an attorney representing Palestine Legal. “It is a slogan that is also chanted by many Jewish people who support the rights of Palestinian people within their historic homeland. It is an aspirational call for a country within the territory of historic Palestine which is free for all people, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and it is not a call to be antisemitic, or target Jews for any type of harm or harassment.”

The phrase is controversial, having a different meaning for different people.

Earlier this month, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, was censured in the U.S. House of Representatives for repeating the same slogan.

RELATED: House votes to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib over her Israel-Hamas rhetoric in a stunning rebuke

CAIR wants the students’ suspensions to be rescinded and removed from their records.

Edina Public Schools released the following statement in response to the filing:

“Edina Public Schools is aware that there has been threatened legal action against the District related to recent student walkouts that have occurred on District property.  The District would like to affirm its unwavering support for students’ First Amendment right to free expression and to peacefully advocate for causes that are important to them. Similarly, the District has strong policies prohibiting any type of discrimination against students based on their religion or any other basis protected under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. 

“The District cannot comment on any particular students or allegations as that information would be considered private data protected by the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  However, students do not have unfettered First Amendment rights while on school property and students do not have a right under the First Amendment to engage in speech that is substantially disruptive or that violates District policies.  

“Our core beliefs in Edina Public Schools are grounded in the inherent dignity of all people. We value and appreciate the diversity of all of our students. Edina Public Schools deeply condemns islamophobia and antisemitism. We will not tolerate hateful or inappropriate comments or behaviors and will work diligently to provide a safe and inclusive environment for our students and staff.”

Edina Public Schools