Education
Thurgood Marshall Elementary School is shown on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Seattle.
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Thurgood Marshall Elementary School is shown on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle Schools suggests Muslim children skip Ramadan fasting to boost test scores

In a letter home to parents at Thurgood Marshall Elementary, the district suggested Muslim parents "allow your child to eat, or participate on partial day fasting, on testing days."

Some Muslims are taking issue with a Seattle school’s request that families consider adjusting their observance of Ramadan to boost children’s standardized test scores.

The holy month of Ramadan, which begins in early May this year, involves day-long fasting, then a late evening meal to break the fast, which can delay bedtime.

In a letter home to parents at Thurgood Marshall Elementary, the district suggested Muslim parents "allow your child to eat, or participate on partial day fasting, on testing days." It also asked parents to ensure their child "is getting sufficient sleep the night before testing days."


Masih Fouladi, executive director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations—Washington, said his organization wrote to the district to object to these requests.

“It came off to our organization, and to so many individuals within the community, as them trying to dictate how their Muslim students should be practicing their faith,” Fouladi said.

Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Tim Robinson said because local districts can't adjust the state's testing period, the district issued the letter — and another to principals offering guidance about testing during Ramadan — as "part of ongoing efforts to be more proactive, responsive and supportive of the diverse faith practices" within the district. Robinson said district staff wrote the letter in consultation with staff members who celebrate the holy month.

“The intent is for school leaders to make consideration at each school level to maximize student success, not to ask families to accommodate testing and abandon a fundamental requirement of faith," Robinson said.


Fouladi said he appreciated that the district's message to parents included the possibility for fasting children to take the state tests in the mornings, when they have more energy.

Still, he said, the testing window runs from March to June, so the district could easily schedule around Ramadan.