Taco Incident Under Investigation

Ben Fischer, Cincinnati Enquirer, June 12, 2009

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating an allegation that staff at the Academy of World Languages, a public magnet school in Evanston, fed a Hindu man’s son a beef taco despite knowing his strict religious prohibition against beef.

Calling it an “intentional act of religious bigotry,” Ashish Gandhi, of Kennedy Heights, said the school clerk took his son to the cafeteria in October and force-fed him the taco. The incident occurred in the midst of a long-running dispute between Gandhi and the school over his son’s education and discipline.

In a written response to a Justice Department investigator obtained under Ohio’s open-records laws, Cincinnati Public Schools admits the 5-year-old ate the taco, but denies violating religious discrimination laws. CPS declined an interview request.

The boy chose the taco himself, and the clerk was unaware of his dietary restrictions, wrote Gary Winters, an attorney for CPS.

“At most, there was an error made on a single occasion, for which CPS’s personnel and administrators have repeatedly apologized to Mr. Gandhi,” he wrote.

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Gandhi has also filed a separate complaint with the Justice Department, alleging that the school system has refused to offer his son, who lived in India until moving to Cincinnati in 2007, services for non-English speaking students. That is also under investigation.

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